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North Shore Rescue saves hiker who suffered massive heart attack

Burnaby man experiencing severe chest pains on the top of Mount Strachan flown to hospital
Talon Dauphin web
Talon Helicopter's Dauphin helicopter lands at North Shore Rescue's Cap Gate SAR station in 2020.

A Burnaby man who suffered a massive heart attack while hiking in the North Shore’s rugged backcountry is alive today thanks to swift work from medical experts who are part of North Shore Rescue’s advanced medical team.

The rescue team was called out shortly after 2 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 10) afternoon after receiving a report of a man in his 50s suffering severe chest pains. The man had hiked to the top of the north peak on Mount Strachan, close to Cypress Provincial Park in West Vancouver.

A three-person team, including an emergency room doctor and nurse, were quickly assembled at North Shore Rescue’s Cap Gate SAR station, said Dave Barnett, search manager for the rescue team. “This was an urgent call,” he said. They were quickly flown to the summit of Mount Strachan by Talon Helicopters.

The medical team recognized the hiker was showing signs of having a major heart attack, said Barnett, including extreme chest pains and difficulty breathing.

The man was still conscious, however, and was quickly given medication and hooked up to heart monitors, including an auto-pulse system that can provide automatic defibrillation if needed.

While the original plan was to fly the hiker to a waiting ambulance on the North Shore, the medical team determined it would be better to take the man directly to St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver, home to one of the Lower Mainland’s advanced cardiac units.

Landing directly at St. Paul’s wasn’t an option, said Barnett, so the helicopter was redirected to the heliport in Vancouver Harbour. From there, the hiker was rushed to St. Paul’s – a short distance away – by ambulance.

As of Monday morning, the man was recovering after receiving medical treatment, said Barnett.

“The guy is extremely lucky,” he said.

Many people don’t survive such a massive heart attack, he said – let alone one that takes place on the top of a mountain in rugged terrain.

That the man made it through alive is a testament to both skills of North Shore Rescue and Talon, their specialist medical resource team and to medical staff at St. Paul’s, said Barnett.

About 40 per cent of the calls North Shore Rescue responds to each year are medical calls. While many of those are for minor injuries – like sprained ankles – about 25 to 30 per cent of them are serious, requiring the skills of ER doctors and nurses from the North Shore who volunteer to be medical resources for the team.

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