On July 18th, Brennan Richard McCarthy-Paquet choked to death on a piece of macaroni.
He was 17 months old.
“I turned around for two seconds,” said his mom Shandell McCarthy.
“It took two seconds for him to swallow that piece of macaroni, and I never thought in my whole life that a child could die from a small piece of macaroni.”
The little boy’s parents immediately called 911.
“It took eight minutes for the ambulance to get here, which was extremely quick, according to (emergency medical services), but to us it seemed like an eternity,” said Marco Paquet, the baby’s father.
The family lives at the top of Two Mile Hill, in Takhini, and the ambulance had to come all the way from Riverdale.
Last month, plans to build a temporary ambulance station on Range Road were turfed after an overwhelming outcry from Takhini residents, who feared the proposed station would bring excess noise and traffic to their area.
“Enough already! This area has already been hard hit with new development,” wrote Heather Dundas on the “Takhini Says No to More Sirens” Facebook group.
“We have the highway, Range Road, Two Mile Hill, the new fire station. EMS needs to back away from a bad plan.”
“We’re just concerned that this would be another set of sirens for the community,” said Takhini West Community Association president Dan Cable, in a previous interview with the News.
Emergency Medical Services estimated there would be, on average, three calls per day requiring a siren.
Paquet and McCarthy also fought the ambulance station.
“We were opposed to the station to begin with because we were just being selfish, like the siren is going to wake our baby,” said Paquet.
“We were thinking about our little boy and the noise waking him up,” added McCarthy.
“But I would have much sooner put up with that and I would much rather have him here with me today and put up with a little bit of noise.”
Now, she’s started a Facebook group of her own, “We support an ambulance station on Range Road.”
McCarthy also plans to meet with city councillors to try to convince them to reconsider the Range Road location as a permanent site for an ambulance station.
And they want the neighbours’ support.
“Right now, if we have to go door to door and have people sign a petition and if we have to tell our story to the thousands of people who live in the area, then so be it,” said Paquet.
“We’re going to do everything it takes.”
The couple want some good to come out of their tragedy.
“It’s going to make a huge difference in someone else’s life,” he said.
“And if I can bring something positive and some meaning out of this then I hope that’s what we can do.”
On Monday, an ambulance crew moved into the Protective Services building at the top of Two Mile Hill. And a temporary emergency medical services station, located in a trailer in the Protective Services parking lot, will begin operation in early fall.
The new crew will help Whitehorse reach the national standard for response times, which is nine minutes.
Yukon Emergency Medical Services hopes to have paramedics to the scene within nine minutes, said Two Mile Hill station manager Terry Klassen.
“Why are we doing this?” he said. “It’s so that we can enhance our response times to the citizens of Whitehorse and the area.
“Why do response times matter? Well, they affect the outcomes of events such as cardiac arrest, anaphylaxis (food allergies) . . . severe bleeding, stroke and choking victims.”
The move to the top of Two Mile Hill before the temporary station opens in the fall had nothing to do with the death of the child, added Klassen.
“To be honest, I can’t speak to that incident,” he said.
“We’re moving because it’s the right thing to do.”
But McCarthy believes otherwise.
After her tragedy, she attended several meetings with emergency medical services, she said.
“And I think this location was a result of that – of what happened.”
Only 10 per cent of emergency calls actually come from Riverdale, while 40 per cent are in the downtown area. The remaining 50 per cent of calls come from what EMS labels, “the rest of Whitehorse.”
Stretching along the Alaska Highway past Crestview and almost to McCrae, this region includes Takhini, Copper Ridge, Granger and Porter Creek.
And emergency calls to these neighbourhoods often far exceed the nine-minute standard response time.
To reach the top of Two Mile Hill alone, it usually takes 10 minutes from the Riverdale station, said Klassen.
“And it’s in our best interest to get to calls as soon as possible,” he said.
The new, permanent station is to be completed by 2012 beside the Protective Services building. Site assessment work is underway and the construction is set to begin in the fall.
The cost of the new building, located across the street from the recently built $10-million fire station, is so far unknown, he said.
The Riverdale EMS station will remain operational, while the temporary one in Takhini runs Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Two staff will work from this location, reducing response times in surrounding neighbourhoods.
It’s still too early to know if their story has made complaining neighbours quiet down about sirens, said McCarthy.
But one member on the opposing Facebook group wrote, “By the way, that ‘50 per cent elsewhere’ includes neighbours and children you want to protect from the noisy sirens. (But) one of those annoying sirens you heard last week was trying to save the life of a child in Takhini North. Maybe you can use this site to come together as a community to support the family.”
The sound of sirens has also changed for the little boy’s parents.
“Every time an ambulance goes by, it’s just heartbreaking because it brings you back to that day,” said Paquet.
Contact Larissa Robyn Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org