It was early on Sunday when 3-year-old Tara Agarwal, almost out of nowhere, was feverish and began throwing up.
To add to the horror then felt by her father, Rishi Agarwal, she began having seizures. Then she fell and hit her head.
“I think all parents will understand this, but the same eyes used to look and say ‘I love you, papa,’ those eyes are rolled back in the head,” said Agarwal.
“And when you can’t see them, you freak out as parents.”
Firefighters from the Calgary Fire Department responded to the medical emergency. Once on scene, they made the decision to transport Tara to the Alberta Children’s Hospital in a fire truck.
At the time, there was a code red called in Calgary, meaning no ambulances from Alberta Health Services were available.
The call was made by Captain Vern McNeice after using a new online medical control procedure that puts firefighter officers in direct contact with physicians. That procedure provides patient care guidance, including the possibility of firefighters transporting patients to the hospital.
Transported to hospital by Station 6 firefighters
Firefighters from Station 6 were able to directly deliver Tara into the hands of awaiting pediatric care staff at the Children’s Hospital.
“The decision was made and it was the right thing to do, and we got a little gird that needed to get to the hospital, we got her there,” said Captain McNeice.
“It wasn’t perfect, but sometimes you just got to do with what you got.”
Captain McNeice said that it was rare that firefighters are reunited with the people who were in their care. Yet, the officers couldn’t stop wondering what happened to Tara.
“We got a surprise, these folks showed up at the firehall and there she is, and it’s a pretty rich experience—fortunate to see that end result.”
Tara was given a Junior Chief fire helmet by Calgary Fire Department Chief Steve Dongworth. She was also given some plush dalmatian dog toys of Sparky, the brigade’s mascot.
Smooth transport exposes serious issues with EMS response
McNeice said that in his 30 years with the Calgary Fire Department, this was the first time he had transported a patient to hospital.
Chief Steve Dongworth recalled the transport of an elderly patient last year, who was taken by police car to hospital.
Agarwal, who is from Toronto, said that he didn’t realize that transport to hospital by firefighters in Alberta wasn’t normal. He praised the officers for making the entire procedure appear seamless for his daughter.
“That’s the option that we had, I’d stand by and do it again. Hopefully, we don’t have to,” said McNeice.
Daniel Langdon, Tara’s father, said that he didn’t know what would have happened if the firefighters hadn’t made the decision to transport his daughter to hospital.
“I very thankful that the fire department was trained and was able to get her there. A friend said the ambulance arrived 15 minutes after we left with the fire truck, so I’m not sure what that would have happened on that day.”
The province announced their own review into EMS response times earlier this month after an 86-year-old woman died on the way to hospital, following a fatal attack by three dogs. At that time, it was reported that it took 30 minutes for paramedics to arrive on scene.
The Health Quality Council of Alberta announced its independent review team earlier this month. investigation.