A life twice saved
By Roland Cilliers
From left to right, Tom Smith, Jason Bailey, Vince Kitching, and Noah Parkin pose for a photo at Smith’s CTS Canadian Career College Graduation ceremony. Kitching’s life was saved by local EMS this summer after suffering two cardiac arrests.
November 15, 2012
PARRY SOUND – Vince Kitching died... twice.
But thanks to the effective work of local paramedics and one student paramedic, today he feeling just fine. After experiencing two heart attacks, Kitching is lucky to be alive.
When experiencing cardiac arrest it is essential that it be treated rapidly.
According to experts, the longer an incident of cardiac arrest goes untreated, the more dangerous it becomes. After more than five minutes, a serious brain injury is almost a certainty. More than that and the result is usually death.
In fact, the average survival rate in Ontario for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests is, according to the District of Parry Sound Emergency Medical Services supervisor, just four per cent. That means if you suffer a cardiac arrest out of a hospital, there’s more than a 90 per cent chance you will die. If it takes more than 10 minutes for breathing to be restored, it is very unlikely the patient will have a successful outcome.
When attending to a patient who has just suffered cardiac arrest the speed and effectiveness with which a paramedic responds becomes a matter of life and death. If you’re a student paramedic attending a cardiac arrest incident, the experience will quickly let you know whether your cut out for the job.
On August 20, Vince Kitching was up at a lodge in the Burk’s Falls area on a fishing trip with a few friends. He got about 500 yards out into the water when he had the first hint that something was wrong.
“My left arm started feeling numb,” said Kitching. “I thought it was maybe just from casting all day, but then it started spreading down my left side. I’ve seen enough commercials where, I figured, there’s definitely something going on here.”
He returned to the shore and decided to lay down for a bit hoping the feeling would just pass on its own. When it didn’t, they called for an ambulance.
In response, paramedics Noah Parkin, Jason Bailey and student Tom Smith were dispatched and arrived on scene just in time to avoid a serious disaster.
“Before I got in the ambulance my heart stopped, and they had to shock me on the floor of the cottage to get it going again,” said Kitching. “I didn’t know what the hell was going on.”
Lucky for Kitching, the paramedics and paramedic student on scene had the situation well under control. Having already spent a summer responding to a myriad of medical emergencies the crew was very experienced at dealing with serious calls.
Tom Smith, the student paramedic working through the practical portion of his course, said when dealing with this kind of an emergency you just kind of go into autopilot and the training takes over.
“He basically stopped breathing on his own,” said Smith about the Keating incident. “His heart stopped, we initiated CPR and hooked up the defibrillator and gave him a single shock and it brought him back. We immediately initiated transport and were probably about half way to the hospital when he went into cardiac arrest again.”
That meant the ambulance had to pull over to administer another shock to Kitching and once again give him CPR. Shortly afterwards, Kitching was successfully transported to the hospital and was, after three days in the hospital, released back to his home.
Today, Kitching is feeling much better and calls the ordeal a “life-changing experience”. He quit smoking shortly afterwards.
A paramedic student needs to complete 450 hours of practical work before they can graduate.
Smith had a summer that was filled with serious calls, so much so that the district supervisor joked he was a “black cloud.”
“That’s what I was doing in the summer time, completing my 450 hours. My preceptor and Jason, we did all kinds of calls together but that was a highlight actually making a save,” Smith said.
Calls like this, where a paramedic is directly responsible for saving a life, are often the highlights of a career. Many paramedics will go an entire career without having a call with such measurable results. The fact that Smith experienced one while a student made for a key part of a summer that one supervisor called the best clinical experience a student could hope for.
At the CTS Canadian Career College Graduation ceremony earlier this month, Smith and the paramedics who were with him were honoured for their effective response.
Kitching attended the ceremony and presented the three men with a special plaque. He said he wanted the chance to thank the people who saved his life.
The story of the save was told during the ceremony by Frank May, the District of Parry Sound Emergency Medical Services supervisor.
“We had a pretty crazy summer,” said Noah Parkin, one of the paramedics on call that day. “In the EMS, we gave every drug we have to give and it was a pretty wild ride. Tom did awesome all summer so I’m really proud of him.”
Now a recent graduate of the program, Smith is currently looking for work as a paramedic. He hopes to be able to continue to help out the local community.
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