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Surrey physicians enlist help of CN Railway to reach mudslide victim in Hope

Patient recovering in Lower Mainland hospital
A team of doctors from Surrey travelled a CN railway, which was damaged by a mudslide, to reach a patient in Hope. (Contributed photo)

The catastrophic flood Monday made it impossible for a patient desperately needing critical care to be transferred from Hope’s Fraser Canyon Hospital to Surrey Memorial, but a creative team of doctors found a way to bring the ICU to the patient.

The patient was sent to the Fraser Canyon Hospital in Hope after he was caught in a mudslide that left him seriously injured. The patient urgently needed a higher level of care, but the roadways were ripped apart and high winds impacted air transport.

Two critical care physicians and a respiratory therapist from Surrey Memorial Hospital drafted a plan to reach the patient that ultimately involved police escort, back country roads and even the Canadian National Railway.

Dr. Greg Haljan, an ICU physician and medical director at Surrey Memorial, was one of the three healthcare providers from Surrey that made their way to Abbotsford, where they were joined by an emergency physician from Fraser Canyon Hospital.

“It was a lot of co-ordination and talking to folks in various police forces in particular because we just needed to know if we could get from Abbotsford to Chilliwack,” Haljan said.

Fortunately, Haljan added, the Surrey RCMP was able to confirm that there was a route to Chilliwack.

“Abbotsford police was kind enough to task us one of their officers to give us an escort sort of around the flooded highway to show us the way through,” Haljan said.

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By this point, Haljan said CN did a tremendous amount of work to clear and rebuild sections of its tracks to get them operational.

“They worked pretty feverishly to support access,” Haljan said.

The group of doctors met a supervisor from CN and jumped aboard a CN rail truck that could take them to Hope.

“I’m not sure how that outreach happened, but CN was incredibly supportive. Right down to the folks in Edmonton, really stepping up to help co-ordinate the response.”

After providing care to the injured patient in Hope, he was eventually transferred to a Lower Mainland hospital via air, where he’s now recovering.

Haljan said Tuesday that the patient is “doing great.”

“When you can’t get a patient out, to bring Surrey Memorial ICU to the patient is a bit of a gift that we’re able to participate in. I was only one small part of a huge chain of survival. Ultimately, it was BC Ambulance that managed to airlift them out.”

About the Author: Aaron Hinks

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