A Time Zone, A Province Apart and Yet Still There

Being there at the moment is everything.” Unknown

You could say that again.

A few weeks ago, the phone rang just before four in the morning. I have the phone by my bed these days because I never know if I’ll get a call from my father or when he’ll need something: reassurance, advice, or help.

And yes, it was Dad. He was complaining of pain and wasn’t sure what to do about it. I’m not a nurse, but I know many of you with elderly parents will attest to how quickly you learn to ask the right questions.

The pain was centered at his side, but because he has had previous heart attacks and none have had typical symptoms (or as his cardiologist says, he doesn’t present with the ordinary indicators), I asked him to call 911 for an ambulance. At that moment, he didn’t know what I meant or what I was talking about. He seemed confused. His speech a bit slurred. I tried to explain. But he still couldn’t grasp what needed to be done. I told him I’d call him back.

I called my siblings who live in Calgary, but they didn’t pick up. I was at a loss at what to do and tried to breathe. My mouth was dry and my stomach felt as though it had dropped down to my wobbly knees.

I called my dad back. The pain was more severe. Again I told him I’d call him back.

How do you call 911 when you’re in Whistler and the emergency is in Calgary? I didn’t know so I called the local RCMP detachment. I got a message. Of course I would it was four in the morning.

Then I took a chance and called the Whistler 911 number.  I told her that I might be calling the wrong number, I apologized, but I had an emergency in Calgary.

I’m writing this blog because I think everyone should know what happened next, just in case you find yourself in the same situation.

The Whistler 911 operator told me to hang on. She said there would be two transfer sounds, but told me not to hang up and if she lost me somehow, she would call me back. I could feel the tears of relief on my cheeks. She was going to help me figure out what to do for my father. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

The clicking sounds came through as I hung on. The first was to the province of Alberta’s 911 operator, the second to Calgary’s 911 operator. The Whistler operator signed off as the Calgary operator came on.

After taking my father’s address and reassuring me that an ambulance was on the way, the Calgary operator asked me a few more questions, then said he had to sign off. He was going to call my father. I thanked him.

When I called my father’s house a few minutes later, a fireman answered the phone and told me the paramedics had given my father an aspirin and were transporting him to the hospital.

More tears.

My father is fine. He was in the hospital for the day. He’d had an angina attack, but I cannot say enough about our emergency and health care system. The nurses and the emergency room doctor phoned me several times during that day to tell me what was happening and how my father was doing. They discussed the results of all the tests they took and gave me some suggestions if this were to happen again.

I wasn’t sure I was going to share this story in my blog, but in the end I did because I want everyone to know that at least in this country, someone will be there for you in your time of need, even if you’re a time zone and hundreds of kilometers away.

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