When he saw the driver slumped over the steering wheel of the truck, unconscious, on the edge of a highway exit ramp, West Vancouver Const. Matt Plant knew this wasn’t going to be an ordinary traffic check.
Plant had been on his way to an unrelated call on the afternoon of Dec. 12 last year when he noticed the truck parked in an awkward spot, a woman nearby trying to flag down help.
“She said the driver was overdosing. It’s one of those things you don’t really expect to hear,” said Plant.
Plant and fellow West Vancouver police officer Const. Rob De Roos sprang into action.
Last week the two officers were recognized by BC Emergency Health Services with Vital Link awards for saving the life of the driver, a 53-year-old Vancouver Island man.
Plant dragged the driver out of the truck, grabbed the defibrillator from his police car and immediately began CPR chest compressions.
Although he’d received police training and practised on a plastic training dummy, it was the first time Plant had performed CPR on a real person. When De Roos arrived, he took over the chest compressions while Plant gave the man a spray of nasal naloxone.
West Vancouver officers have had naloxone – which reverses the effects of a drug overdose – in their police cars since 2017 and on their service belt since last year.
The actions of Plant and De Roos would prove key to saving the man’s life.
Within two minutes of paramedics’ arrival, the driver had a pulse again. By the time they got to the hospital, he was conscious and talking.
Tyler Clements, a BC Ambulance paramedic who was first to arrive on the scene that day, said the situation shows what a key difference CPR can make. “It doesn’t take much to learn it,” he said. “The potential is you could save someone’s life.”
Even if bystanders don’t know CPR, 911 operators will provide step-by-step instructions.
When someone is in cardiac arrest, every minute without CPR significantly lowers the chances of survival.
That’s something that Const. Jeff Palmer of the West Vancouver Police Department knows first-hand. His own life was saved by paramedics who were close at hand when he dropped of a massive heart attack during a Tour de Coast bike tour to raise money for kids with cancer.
“Yes, paramedics will be there as quickly as they can be, but it’s so important for people in the community to know they can be that person who can help make a difference,” said Palmer at the award presentation Thursday. “Seconds count.”
Plant said thinking back on the incident is “still a bit surreal.”
“I guess the stars lined up for everybody,” he said. “Everyone was in the right spot at the right time.”