Lion Jim McGlade thanks Air Ambulance/ Flight Nurse, Patricia McParland, for sharing her experiences in the Yukon.
Westport Lions Roar
By Lion Bob Reddick
Even though Patricia McParland has been away from Westport for more than 25 years, she still calls Westport home.
Patricia had to complete a three-month placement anywhere in Canada to meet the final requirements of obtaining her Bachelor of Nursing degree at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. She had always been fascinated with the north, so she packed her bags and headed for Whitehorse in the Yukon.
Patricia started her career in the north as an air ambulance nurse. To better prepare herself for her job she has taken numerous courses such as becoming a Primary Care Paramedic and completing various certificates in nursing specialities, such as Flight Medicine courses. Conducting emergency first aid in the air presents a whole host of additional considerations caused by such things as changes in air pressure.
In time, Patricia became coordinator of Whitehorse’s ambulance service -both ground and air ambulance operations. She implemented many improvements to the EMS service in the Yukon, such as offering additional specialized training and safety procedures for the nurses, physicians, and paramedics within the Yukon Territory.
Most medevac patients are flown to Whitehorse, a city of 36,000 people that has a hospital of 60 beds. The other two smaller hospitals that serve the 41,000 residents of the Yukon are in Watson Lake and Dawson City. Medical emergencies that require specialized care are flown to Vancouver, a four-hour flight from Whitehorse.
On average, the Yukon emergency medical service responses to 15,000 ground calls per year and 900 medevac flights per year. Patricia has well over 2,000 medical flights to credit in addition to numerous ground ambulance calls within the Yukon as a Paramedic/Nurse.
Ms. McParland now oversees the air ambulance service. In addition to her role as supervisor to paramedics and EMS volunteers, Patricia is also a co-ordinator of training and is the primary educator for nurses, fire departments and paramedics, in Whitehorse and for volunteers within the Yukon. Since Whitehorse lies in an earthquake and flood zone, she conducts simulations for these possible natural disasters.
The Lion members were captivated by her stories of air crashes and grizzly bear attacks. We learned that if you want to attract attention from the air – spreading out a blue tarp is one of the best things you can do for a plane to spot you.
We also learned that in the last stage of hypothermia, a person will have a heat rush and will strip off their clothing. A couple of participants have met this fate in the famous Yukon Quest, a 1,000-mile dog sled race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Her tips on avoiding grizzly attacks were to make lots of noise while moving about in the woods. You do not want to startle a grizzly bear. If a grizzly bear attacks and you don’t have a gun or bear spray you should play dead. I think most people would find this a tough thing to do. Grizzlies bury their prey and an old, hungry bear is the most dangerous. Patricia assured us at the end of her talk on grizzlies that there have only been four bear attacks in the last 25 years.
Tourism is very important to the economy of the Yukon with direct flights from Germany to Whitehorse. Asian tourists tend to visit in February and March to view the spectacular northern lights.
Patricia spoke passionately about the adventures and scenery that awaits anyone who visits the Yukon. She encouraged the membership to visit the Yukon, “even on the coldest days in the winter the scenery is beautiful.” Patricia showed us slides of the fascinating Watson Sign Post Forest and views of the Yukon’s breathtaking landscapes.
As the Yukon’s motto says, “A Place Larger than Life.”
The Westport Lions were very lucky to have such an accomplished person speak to our club.