Dr. Nic Sparrow volunteers his time assisting emergency services at some of the most serious 911 calls in the West Kootenay. (Submitted photo)

West Kootenay doctor brings innovative approach to emergency response

He remains on call and leaves the comforts of his home for some of the harshest realities of life.

For most people, going above and beyond means working overtime to complete an important project or help a neighbour out of a tough situation.

But for Dr. Nic Sparrow, going above and beyond means saving people’s lives or drastically changing the recovery outcome of a severe injury or health crisis, and he is hoping more doctors and community members will join in the fight.

Sparrow is an emergency room doctor at Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson, but he feels the duty of saving lives doesn’t end when he leaves the hospital at the end of his shift.

Sparrow remains on call and often leaves the comforts of his home for some of the harshest realities of life — the most severe 9-1-1 calls in the West Kootenay. He does this work as a volunteer — giving his time and providing his own supplies and equipment.

The idea of doctors attending accident scenes, cardiac arrest calls and drug overdoses seems like a new approach here in Canada, but the practice is actually quite common in Europe and other parts of the world.

Sparrow first became familiar with the practice while working in the United Kingdom.

After moving to Canada, Sparrow started volunteering his time for this type of work in 2008 while working on the Sunshine Coast.

Sparrow is quick to emphasize that he does not do this work alone, that it is a team effort — he is there to support the first responders, ambulance attendants, paramedics and fire department personnel.

“I think they do an absolutely amazing job — but there are some calls that a physician who is trained in pre-hospital response can assist with,” said Sparrow.

“To support the emergency services, and secondly to help save lives and help the most critically ill or injured patients in the community — that is my goal,” explained Sparrow who has attended 260 calls over the last four years.

Sparrow says its hard to calculate how many lives have been saved through the work.

“I’m not working in isolation, I’m working always with the paramedics, with the firefighters — so it is hard to equate to lives saved. But I have definitely, massively changed the outcome for a subset of critically ill patients,” he said.

This is partly because he is able to provide things like anti-seizure medications — stopping patients from enduring long periods of seizures and advanced life support drugs and treatments to the scene of cardiac arrests.

“There are certain things that I can provide that other providers at the moment in the pre-hospital environment cannot — that’s partly why I respond,” said Sparrow.

“The paramedics on the ground and the firefighters … they have to deal with some really tough stuff and work in the confines of what they are allowed to do — when we have basic life support, there are only a limited number of things the province allows them to do.”

Before moving to Canada, Sparrow responded with the ambulance service of the UK as a first responder and also alongside ambulance services in South Africa.

“I have seen the benefit of having physicians in rural areas respond,” he said.

“I think it should be a national program. There should be volunteer pre-hospital trained physicians — and maybe in the fullness of time it won’t be volunteer — across the province in rural areas assisting the ambulance service.”

Kootenay Emergency Response Physicians Association

Sparrow and others have formed a non-profit organization to help fund this work — the Kootenay Emergency Response Physicians Association (KERPA).

He hopes other physicians will join him in the work but explained it may take a while before that could happen.

“There is quite a lot of specialist training you require to translate your emergency skills into the pre-hospital setting,” explained Sparrow.

He also knows the idea is a tough sell.

“It’s an unusual model because you are not being paid for your time, you are on call 24/7 unless you turn your phone off. It’s not an overly attractive job concept.

“You have to be slightly weird in order to want to do it — hopefully the Kootenays will attract some more weird people to join me,” added Sparrow.

KERPA has developed a wish list that includes a designated marked vehicle to take to the scene of calls. The vehicle could then be stocked with the necessary equipment and outfitted with lights and sirens.

Sparrow has been using a LifePak 12 defibrillator/monitor on loan from Interior Health and an upgrade to a LifePak 15 is also on the organization’s list.

They would also like an automated chest compression device — the LUCAS 3.

KERPA has already raised about $20,000 and has purchased a state-of-the-art hand-held ultrasound machine.

The above equipment will cost about $75,000 to $100,000 so KERPA is looking for a dealership or someone else to sponsor the vehicle and is accepting donations through its Facebook page.

“We are just a volunteer organization, trying to help — we have no political agenda,” added Sparrow. “I feel I have a duty to help these people and I am going to do it — I’m just going to do it.”

And that is where the conversation ended — Sparrow’s phone rang, and he was needed elsewhere.

Just Posted

Mt. Hicks wildfire forces thousands of cyclists to divert from Hope

The 10th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer was meant to end in Hope Sunday

At least 14 illegal fires set between Chilliwack and Hope this month

Conservation officers are fed up with people not listening to the province-wide fire ban

Camp Ignite aims to inspire future first responders

Four-day camp offers young women a chance to experience the challenges of being a first responder

General aviation traffic down to a trickle at Chilliwack Airport

Minimum visibility guidelines can’t be met when conditions are so smoky you can’t see the mountains

Evacuation alert issued for Kamp Road properties as Mount Hicks fire moves west

An evacuation alert has been issued for all properties on Kamp Road.… Continue reading

Social media, digital photography allow millennials to flock to birdwatching

More young people are flocking to birdwatching than ever, aided by social media, digital photography

Are your kids anxious about going back to school?

BC Children’s Hospital offers tips to help your children be mindful and reduce stress

New trial ordered for James Oler in B.C. child bride case

Meanwhile, appeal court dismisses Emily Blackmore’s appeal of guilty verdict

This trash heap in Vancouver could be yours for $3.9 million

Sitting atop 6,000 square feet, the home was built in 1912, later destroyed by fire

Date rapist left victims with ‘long-lasting, emotional scars,’ judge says

Klifford Kenyon of Abbotsford sentenced to additional two years in prison

Fire in barn that housed therapy horses has been confirmed an arson

Abbotsford Police Department is now investigating and seeks witnesses

Team Canada’s next game postponed at Little League World Series

They’re back in action on Wednesday against Peurto Rico

Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen pleads guilty in hush-money scheme

Said he and Trump arranged payment to porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model to influence the election

Former Trump aide Paul Manafort found guilty of eight charges

A mistrial has been declared for the other 10 charges against him

Most Read