In the midst of one of the worst blizzards to hit Westman in recent memory, Skye Hatch was by her father’s side in an ambulance, desperate to make it to Brandon.
The storm forced the closure of highways across the region, but Trent Hatch, 52, needed immediate attention after suffering cardiac arrest at his home in Minnedosa on the evening of March 7.
"(It) was one of the worst evenings of my life. Not only was it one of the worst blizzards of the year, but my dad’s heart stopped right in front of me," Skye said. "I was in the middle of cooking supper for my father, brother and I when all of a sudden my dad’s head hit the coffee table and he was unresponsive."
Skye, 20, rushed to her dad to perform CPR while her brother, Brayden, 17, called 911.
"They had instructed us to put him on the floor and start giving the compressions on the chest," Skye said.
Due to the snowstorm, the ambulance couldn’t access the Hatch home, which is in a Minnedosa trailer park. The ambulance was parked at the end of the street and paramedics ran with equipment to the residence, Skye explained.
"We had a few residents helping shovel … so they could get the ambulance and everything in the trailer park," she said.
They made it to Minnedosa hospital, where it was quickly determined Trent would need to be transferred to Brandon.
Louise Stitt, emergency medical services regional manager with Prairie Mountain Health, said typically they would have tried to get air support, such as STARS Air Ambulance or Lifeflight, but it was not possible due to the storm.
"Nobody’s flying. If you’re going anywhere, you’re going by ground ambulance," she said.
In some situations during the storm, doctors and nurses were on board the ambulances to help. There were many cases across the region where crews were "as inventive as they’d ever had to be" to get to patients, Stitt said.
"We used one crew to help another crew if they were close by," she said.
Snowplow operators were called and the ambulance left Minnedosa on Highway 10 and inched toward Brandon.
"Between the snow blowing and the road conditions and the lights flashing on the ambulance, we couldn’t see anything," Skye said.
They had just about made it when they hit a snow drift and got stuck near Forrest. The ambulance lost all power, stranding them for more than an hour.
"The only person I was really worried about was my dad because he was unconscious," Skye said. "I was just worried that none of the equipment was going to work."
Brandon EMS and City of Brandon snowplow operators came to their rescue. Skye, Trent, two Minnedosa paramedics and the doctor switched to the Brandon ambulance and made it to the hospital around 11:30 p.m.
Trent was taken to the trauma room, and Skye was joined by her grandmother, Dorene Hatch, Trent’s mother.
By then, Dorene had been waiting anxiously for her family to arrive. She was at the hospital when she heard the ambulance was stuck on the highway.
"It was devastating because they’d lost heat, power, steering, everything," she said.
Dorene said it was a relief when they finally made it.
"We’ve just been taking it day by day since then," she said. "The doctor is optimistic, but they’re not sure what damage was done."
Trent is currently in ICU, and his condition is slowly improving.
"He’s initiating his own breathing now with a little bit of help from the ventilator," Skye said. "But they still have him a little bit sedated … he’s not talking or anything."
Skye said she is trying to stay positive and strong for her family. She thinks the world of her father, who raised his two children on his own.
"Once my mom left, he had to stay at home with us because we were so young," she said. "His health got bad and he was basically a stay-at-home dad since I can remember."
Skye fondly recalled how her dad would do everything he could to make their childhood a happy one.
"He is the type of guy that could make anyone smile, even on the rainiest days."
The family expressed their heartfelt gratitude to the emergency crews, tow truck drivers, snowplow operators and everyone else who came together to help that fateful night.
"I would really like to say thank you to everyone that was a part of saving my dad’s life. It truly means a lot to me and my family, that you would risk your own lives to help others," Skye said.
Last week’s blizzard brought out the good in people across the entire region, Stitt said. Police, firefighters, snowmobile clubs, farmers and snowplowing crews all came out to help when they could.
"It reinforced the basic human need of being able to help each other out," she said.
For many calls received during that time, Stitt said it would not have been possible to respond unless they were preceded by crews to help clear the way.
"You can’t get through that kind of a winter blizzard without teamwork, absolutely cannot," she said. "I don’t think I have ever been as proud of emergency responders in general, and I include (Manitoba Infrastructure) in that, because everybody used their best thinking caps to come up with what an option might be … Everybody bent over backwards, people came out when normally they wouldn’t be on the roads. We had amazing support."
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