Fast action saves man’s arm

A young man who almost bled to death credits Red Deer’s Advanced Life Support ambulance service for helping save his life.

Red Deer city emergency medical technician

Red Deer city emergency medical technician

A young man who almost bled to death credits Red Deer’s Advanced Life Support ambulance service for helping save his life.

Brendan Dacey, a 21-year-old Red Deer oilpatch worker, is recovering at his family home in Halifax, N.S., after severely slicing his left arm on Jan. 1.

Dacey left his apartment unit he shared with best friend Bruce Theriault at about 4 a.m. when the freak accident occurred. He was preparing to push the hallway door — his right hand twisting the doorknob, his left hand pushing on the door window.

Enough pressure with his left hand caused his arm to smash through the pane.

“My arm got cut wide open,” Dacey said. “My arm was cut down to the bone, I had cut the main artery completely in half. I was pretty much cut at the elbow, pretty much cut my arm off. The only thing that was holding it there was a little bit of muscle, a little bit of bone.”

“I looked at Bruce and said ‘Call 911.’”

The two rushed back into their apartment. Theriault, 22, grabbed a belt and used it as a tourniquet above the cut and stayed on the phone with the emergency dispatcher.

“I don’t think we had time to be scared because it was bleeding so much,” said Dacey.

The pair ended up in the lobby. A young unidentified woman entered and helped clamp the belt while Theriault got a towel. Dacey became weak and collapsed at one point.

Shortly after, Red Deer Emergency Services fire-medics Jason Johnson and Brent Foord arrived. With his friend by his side, Dacey climbed into the ambulance.

“When we took the towel and let go of the belt, we had a better idea of how bad the cut was,” said Johnson, a paramedic. “There was a lot of blood.”

The glass had cut Dacey’s brachial artery. The wounds ran halfway up his bicep, through the elbow joint and down through some of the muscle in his forearm.

Red Deer Emergency Services provides Advanced Life Support, which means at least one fire-medic per ambulance must be a paramedic. They have more specialized skills than an emergency medical technician.

Foord, an EMT, gave Johnson a hand.

As soon as the belt came off, Dacey lost consciousness. He had already lost a lot of blood and now it was free flowing. They put on dressings and Johnson called for a second ambulance. While Foord held Dacey’s arm, Johnson started an intravenous line on Dacey’s right arm.

“We gave him a litre of fluid, just rapidly squeezed it in because it just expands your blood volume,” Johnson said. “We took his blood pressure and it came back really low — he had lost a lot of blood.”

Matt Mellon, also a paramedic, arrived in a second ambulance. Once he saw what was happening inside, he offered to drive his co-workers’ ambulance. They rushed to hospital.

Johnson commended Theriault for his actions.

“He definitely saved his buddy’s life by putting the belt on there.”

Plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Furness performed a six-and-a-half hour surgery.

Dacey was told he had lost more than 50 per cent of his blood. The day he left Red Deer Regional Hospital two weeks later, more than 50 stitches were removed from his arm.

He returned to Halifax to be with family on Jan. 21. His arm is now in a cast. It will be up to a year before he knows how good the arm will be.

“It was a pretty big deal,” said Dacey. “I ended up getting a vein graft, they had to take a vein out of my wrist. I had to get a skin graft from my leg to graft onto my arm.

“If it wasn’t for Bruce and the paramedics, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Dacey expects to return to Red Deer in mid February.

Sean Dacey, a professional firefighter in Halifax, emailed Red Deer city council on Jan. 20, praising those who saved his son’s life.

“I would like to commend the City of Red Deer for having such a highly trained Advanced Life Support paramedic team, for had this incident occurred in my home city of Halifax, the arriving paramedics could have all been Basic Life Support (responders) — not trained to a high enough standard to save my son’s life,” said Sean.

Councillor Larry Pimm read out the Dacey letter in council this week.

“It’s a very dramatic and honest example — these people saved his life that an inferior service might not have,” said Pimm. “I think this happens very frequently.”

If the provincial government, which provides the funding for ambulances, decides that Red Deer’s service is higher than elsewhere and downgrades it, that would be troubling for the community, said Pimm.