It was a day that paramedics, witnesses and loved ones described as one when the planets aligned just right, despite the near-death experience of a Kluane First Nation woman.
Oct. 22, 2012 seemed like a normal Monday for Robin Bradasch, but her life changed at around noon. “I went to work, I did everything I normally would,” she said. Instead of going home for lunch, she met her husband at Murdoch’s Gem Shop. “With no forewarning I experienced a cardiac arrest and just collapsed,” she said.
Yesterday, Bradasch reunited with four of the five Emergency Medical Services paramedics who saved her life. The meeting took place at the ambulance station in Whitehorse.
EMS director Michael McKeage said the event was co-ordinated as part of a celebration of EMS week and the ongoing effort to recruit more volunteers to the service.
The Yukon EMS offers two types of services: the first is full-time paid staff members, including ground and flight services in Whitehorse and a volunteer-run service in surrounding communities.
“We’re always looking for people to help us, and see how they would like to fit in,” McKeage said.
It takes a village
A number of people played instrumental roles in helping Bradasch.
Cathy Young, a staff member at Murdoch’s, made the call to 911.
“Our maintenance man was up at the ceiling changing light bulbs and he saw everything first,” Young said. “And he was like, ‘We have a medical emergency! Quick! Everybody out of the store!’ And then everything started.”
From then on, it was a matter of minutes. The ambulance was called at 12:15 p.m. and arrived at 12:17, McKeage said.
McKeage, who was on lunch, witnessed the incident and helped resuscitate Bradasch. “In my experience of some 30 years, it was one of the most exceptionally run cardiac arrests that I’ve ever seen – well co-ordinated and very quiet and very calm and professionally dealt with,” he said.
Bradasch’s sister, Katie Johnson, happened to also be at the scene. Staff at Murdoch’s told her she couldn’t go in. “I was like, ‘That’s my sister,’” she said, hands waving in the air. “So I took it emotionally, so it probably was a good thing that I left,” she added.
In describing the event, Bradasch started to choke up. “I heard that they shocked me something like eight times. I think that everybody kind of didn’t think that I was there anymore. But despite that they didn’t give up,” she said, gulping.
More help needed despite victory
McKeage threw out some notable numbers in relation to the Yukon’s emergency services. “We care for 7,000 patients in five scopes of practice – every year, every day. Every day five ambulances respond to calls in the communities and just last week we had 115 calls and 21 medevac requests in the city of Whitehorse,” he said.
The EMS team responds to only 15 cardiac protocols per year, McKeage said. Paramedic Devin Bailey, who was part of the advanced life support crew in Bradasch’s case, believes otherwise. “I feel like there’s more, and you only see one here. But we need to celebrate our successes, something like this means a lot,” he said.
Asked if Bradasch would have survived in a smaller community with volunteer-run services, McKeage said, “The volunteers in the communities maintain a level of skill and confidence to be able to address this kind of case and to give the most appropriate care early on. The defibrillation – which is absolutely key – that can be done in the communities as well as the CPR and ventilation,” he said.
Considering fewer than 100 people reside in Burwash Landing, where Bradasch is originally from, her death would have certainly impacted the community. Johnson describes her as the “matriarch” of the family, being the eldest who takes care of all of the siblings. Being an active Kluane member who fought for land claims adds to the stakes.
“Kluane First Nation has only 210 members, so we’re very small,” said Bradasch. “Everyone counts, right?”
“We have 150 folks inside the communities that are biology teachers and homemakers and plumbers and bankers that do intensive care medicine on a part-time basis to help their neighbours,” McKeage said.
“The people in the communities know these people. They know their students, their teachers or their child’s teacher. They know that it’s their aunty,” he added. “It’s rough when you know the people that you’re caring for.”
Contact Krystle Alarcon at