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VIDEO: B.C. heli-rescue service set to open new base on Vancouver Island

TEAAM Aeromedical aims to fill a gap in pre-hospital care

Technical Evacuation Advanced Aero Medical Society (TEAAM) gave a presentation for a dozen onlookers in a VIH Helicopters building near the Campbell River airport on Thursday afternoon (Nov. 4)

The non-profit, medically-directed rescue service, which currently flies out of bases in Squamish, Prince George and Fort St. John is weeks away from getting its Campbell River operation off the ground.

President Miles Randell said the remote areas surrounding the city have been on the society’s radar as having a gap in pre-hospital coverage.

“We’ve got staff here that have identified the massive need,” he said. “And the Truck Loggers Association has reached out to us and shown us that they need us here as well.

“The remote settings and communities of the North Island are really hard to reach with advanced life support and critical care medical care, and so we’re able to bring that, and we’re the only program in Canada that does the work that we do.”

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Randell, who looks like a retired NFL running back that could easily plays a few more downs, decided to start the company with current vice president, Jordan Lawrence, shortly after the failed rescue of a Search and Rescue leader of theirs who suffered a heart attack in the back country in 2014.

Both have extensive SAR experience in the North Shore and Squamish areas.

The organization they created is capable of providing advanced life support, critical care, and medicine, as well as rescue people from hard to reach places.

“It’s the first of its kind in Canada,” Randell said, “But w’re literally 50 years behind Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand.

“We’re not for profit, it’s 100 per cent focused on patient care,” he added. “We just need to get to those patients that are suffering or dying that aren’t getting the pre-hospital care they need.”

Shortly after starting the program, BC Forest Safety Ombudsman Roger Harris released a report showing the forestry sector needed such a service, Randell remembered.

“When we read the report, we said, ‘That’s us!’” Lawrence piped in.

Companies within the forestry industry which send their employees to the hard to access areas of the province is where TEAAM have focused the majority of their efforts.

Randell told of an incident in which the service was able to help a man who broke his spine in a cut block north of Harrison Lake.

“We were able to get him treated immediately on scene,” he said. The forestry worker’s spine was protected with a vacuum spine board, and he was given medications to keep his blood pressure stabilized before being delivered to Vancouver General Hospital.

The rescue took an hour and 40 minutes, as opposed to the nearly 14 hours it might have taken to drive the patient out.

As a result, the man is now able to use his legs.

“To have him be able to walk out of the hospital, that’s the most gratifying thing we could imagine,” Randell said.

From the Campbell River base, the service will be able to cover Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and up to Bella Coola.

“We can be wherever the need is,” Randell said.

The local base will be managed by Dave Hutton, a paramedic, firefighter and ski-patroller.

“This is near and dear to my heart ,” he said. “I have a lot of friends who are loggers, and I’ve picked a lot of these people up as a paramedic, doing these medi-vacs where my hands are tied, and I can’t do certain things, and so this is pretty exciting to see this program put in place in Campbell River.”

A host of primary care paramedics, advanced life support paramedics, critical care paramedics, emergency services nurses, emergency physicians, and even auto extrication technicians were also onsite doing some training in preparation for the base opening.

“We bring the emergency department to the accident scene,” Randell said.

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