Carlton Leith still hears the nurse’s screams in his nightmares.
On March 18, at Abbotsford Regional Hospital, those terrified sounds jolted him into action. He followed them to the nurse’s station, where a nurse was unconscious on the floor, bleeding from her head, and a huge man was still raining punches down on her. Another nurse was trying to stop the out-of-control psychiatric patient. Unable to push the panic button, she screamed.
The arm cocked back for another blow, aimed at the nurse trying to control the patient, and Leith grabbed it. He quickly switched his grip to a chokehold, on the neck of a man close to twice the size of Leith’s 155 pounds. The struggling stronger man grabbed Leith’s arm and pulled it away from his throat, but with the nurse also grabbing at the patient, Leith reapplied the hold.
They held him for an impossibly long minute, until two hospital security members arrived, and then it was over.
Those moments of Leith’s heroism were recounted at the Abbotsford Police Board meeting on Tuesday morning. Mayor George Peary, Leith’s former principal at Yale Secondary, presented the 36-year-old with a Police Board Commendation.
The victim of the assault was seriously injured. She sustained a laceration to her head, a cerebral hematoma, cuts and severe facial swelling. She has not been able to return to work.
Leith has been thanked by her, and the other nurse, which he appreciated. They said the situation could have been much worse if he didn’t intervene, and there may have even more grievous injuries.
Leith never hesitated.
“I had no fear for myself, I had fear for them,” he recalls.
“I don’t feel like a hero. I’m just a normal guy,” said Leith, a local entrepreneur, who founded Top Notch Food Services.
“The other nurse is equally as much a hero.”
Still, he said the Police Board Commendation helped to put the whole incident in perspective. Looking down at his framed award he said: “It means a heck of a lot.”