Losing a friend is difficult. Losing a friend when you know you possibly could have saved them if you had been there to help, is even more difficult.
That’s exactly what happened to Miles Randell and Jordan Lawrence.
In January, 2014, Lawrence, a Primary Care Paramedic Advanced, and Randell, an Advanced Life Support Paramedic, were called to help their team leader and station chief who had suffered a cardiac arrest on a hiking trail.
“(We) weren’t allowed to hike up the trail to get to the patient’s side,” said Randell. “As a result he passed away.”
A few months later they responded to a similar call of a 24-year-old woman who had also suffered a cardiac arrest.
“She was in a location where BC Ambulance paramedics couldn’t respond,” he said. “We bent the rules and, after four hours of CPR, were able to transport her to a specialty resource and she made a complete recovery.”
In the case of their friend, they followed the rules and lost their friend. In the case of the woman, they bent the rules and saved her life.
“We realized there was a massive gap in the provision of pre-hospital care in British Columbia,” Randell said. Paramedics can’t always get to injured people and search and rescue crews don’t have the training or the equipment to provide advanced life support or critical care life-saving care.
With a goal of fixing that gap, they started doing some research. That research took them to Switzerland and discovered that Canada is behind Europe, Australia and New Zealand in when it comes to this kind of service which integrates aeromedical and rescue skills.
That led them to form TEAAM Aeromedical, based out of Squamish, which primarily provides helicopter rescues, but it also has a four-by-four ambulance and fixed-wing capability. Randell is the president and Lawrence is the vice-president. TEAAM stands for Technical Evacuation Advanced Aero Medical and it is a registered society.
On October 19, 2018 they responded to their first call, which was to help a logger in the Harrison Lake area who had been hit by a tree, which shattered his spine and collapsed his lung.
“We were able to get there within 35 minutes of the accident,” Randell said. “We were able to provide advanced life support care. We took his pain away with medications, we performed an ultrasound … and then we were able to transport him directly to a trauma centre.”
The man was under the care of a neurosurgeon within about 90 minutes of being hurt. Without TEAAM Aeromedical, the trip to hospital would likely have been about 14 hours and the man likely would have been paralyzed.
“For a minimal cost (of about $4,500, which was paid by the employer), he was able to walk again and we saved the medical system about $9 million,” Randell said.
They provide a similar level of care as a BC Ambulance Critical Care Air Ambulance or STARS. They employ advance life support, critical care, and primary care paramedics; critical care and emergency nurses; and emergency physicians.
Now, with a couple of years of operation under their belt, TEAAM Aeromedical is coming to Prince George.
“We are expanding our response area from our Team 1 base in Squamish, which can cover about one-third of the province, to establish a base in Prince George, which is our Team 2 base, so we can provide aeromedical rescue to northern B.C.”
He stresses they fill a gap and do not infringe on the work of the BC Ambulance Service or search and rescue.
While similar services have been talked about for the North for some time, they have ultimately depended on government for funding and, regrettably, not been funded. TEAAM Aeromedical has a different funding model, which is a patronage program.
“It’s similar to a membership where you have an annual fee to have access to our program and up until recently, people were paying for their rescue,” said Randell. “Now we refer people to insurance programs.” Patronages cost $100 per worker per year or $50 per recreationalist per year and are key to keeping the programs day to day costs covered.
An individual can spend about $25 and get insurance coverage or a company can spend about $180 and get coverage for a large number of people.
“It becomes quite affordable that way,” Randell said. “The patronage cost covers the day-to-day operations and the insurance side covers the cost of recoveries.”
The company is looking to be operation in Prince George this fall with a crew of about 50, who work on-call. Eventually, they hope, to have a full time staffing contingent here in Prince George. They are negotiating with Yellowhead Helicopters to provide the helicopters. Jesse Flegel is the TEAAM 2 Base Manager in Prince George.
The company had a public information and recruiting session in Prince George this week that was well attended.
The company will start fundraising shortly to provide the equipment and training they will need here in Prince George.
“As soon as we have the funding secured (about $300,000), we should be able to launch on a call-out basis within 60 days,” Randell said.
If anyone wants to help out, they are more than willing to meet.
“We want to get here as quick as we can because we know people are suffering,” said Lawrence.