by Vejay Steede
In photo: Dean Smith
Medical emergencies can be extremely difficult to manage during extreme weather. Of course, staying at home during a storm is encouraged, as venturing out is dangerous, and emergency service responses can be compromised during a hurricane.
Critical situations do occur, however, and there definitely are ways to get to a hospital during a hurricane. If an individual suffers from a time-sensitive situation, like a stroke or heart attack, then calling 911 is the best way to find help during a storm.
Mothers who are close to their due dates may have the option of staying at the hospital in case they go into labour during the inclement weather. People with conditions that rely upon electrical appliances for treatment should secure a generator in preparation for a hurricane, as we in Bermuda typically run a considerable risk of losing electrical power in our homes when the wind gets violent.
Luckily, we do have a strong emergency worker community; they will do whatever they can to help citizens in distress. Firefighter Dean Smith recalls a recent story of rescue when his crew made a decision to get a citizen who needed oxygen to the hospital during Hurricane Paulette.
It was on September 14, 2020 when an EMS call to assist someone who was having difficulty breathing came in. Although it was quite unsafe to be out, and King Edward VII Memorial Hospital had stood down their ambulances, Lieutenant Jamal Albouy and his crew decided that no one in Bermuda would be lost on their watch.
Lieutenant Albouy set out with Duty Central Crew Seargeant Ronnae Lowe and firefighters Jay Astwood, Callon Burns, Reid Henderson and Dean Smith from Hamilton Station on a mission of grace to Abbott’s Cliff in Bailey’s Bay.
“I remember that call–I’ll never forget it, really. It was during the hurricane, and it was at the height [of the weather] where the ambulance didn’t want to go, and the electricity had gone out down Bailey’s Bay. It was at Abbot’s Cliff, the entrance across from Francis Patton,” Smith says.
“It was Lieutenant Albouy–he went in his vehicle–and we went in Duty Central. We headed down because the lady was on oxygen and because the electricity was out, that meant she wasn’t going to get any oxygen. She was starting to fade,” Smith continues.
“So, we made a decision to go down and get her. As we got down, as far as the aquarium, there was a big tree blocking the road. We had to get the chainsaw out and start cutting the tree. The chainsaw didn’t work, so we had to get the axe out and start chopping the tree with the axe to move it out of the way. Eventually, we hooked up a rope to it and pulled the remaining part out of the way so we could get by.”
Once the crew got to Abbott’s Cliff there were so many trees down that they had to get into Lieutenant Albouy’s car. They took all the oxygen and supplies and went up to the lady’s house.
“Once we got to the house, we had to get creative because we didn’t have any backboards, so we pretty much just put her on a blanket and got her out of the house. We eventually got her into the partner van, gave her oxygen, and got her to the hospital.”