Teen impaled by tree reunites with paramedics who saved her life

The phrase “amazing save” doesn’t even begin to describe it. A Penticton high school student struck and pierced though the core of her body by a log, while riding an ATV on Apex Mountain last summer, was reunited with paramedics, and many others, who pulled out all the stops to save her life.

During Marissa Lemioer’s late afternoon ATV ride on July 23, 2016, a log eight feet long and four inches in diameter pierced through the front of her ATV, and entered the 15 year old’s abdomen. It exited the other side of her body after coming alarmingly close to vital organs. The log then then went through the back of the ATV, leaving Marissa impaled and pinned in the vehicle.

With the location on Apex being out of cell phone range, a friend had to rush down the road to call for help. Within 90 minutes, BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) Duty Supervisor Glenn Braithwaite and a PENSAR helicopter external transfer system (HETS) team had flown to the remote scene in an Eclipse Helicopter, and arrived at the patient’s side to provide urgent care, while a very delicate extraction began.

“This is one the most significant responses that I’ve been on,” Braithwaite said at the reunion in Penticton last March. “In terms of what all of the responders brought to the table that day, everybody had to have their A-game, and everybody brought their A-game. While I was immensely proud of the work everybody did that day, for me it was just another example of what our crews, dispatchers and support staff are capable of, and do, every day.”

With Marissa trapped by the eight-foot log in her ATV, most of it had to be cut free from either side of the patient, before she could be extricated from the ATV and lifted from the scene by the HETS team, and then taken to another location for pick up by critical care paramedics Mike McKinnon and Steve Hurley. While the extraction was underway, another ground ambulance crew in Penticton was dispatched to Penticton Regional Hospital to pick up blood that they took to the Penticton Airport for the CCT Helicopter to pick up on their way to the scene.

Within an hour and 50 minutes after “Task Force Apex” first arrived; the patient had been assessed, cut free, longlined out to a nearby site and transferred to a BCEHS air ambulance for transport straight to Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) for life-saving surgery.

Today, Marissa is doing well, and with her mother Anne, was reunited with the first responders who are roundly credited with saving Marissa’s life. The reunion on March 16, 2017 was organized by the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation and BCEHS and attended by BC Ambulance Service paramedics and dispatchers, PENSAR first responders and Dr. Mike Ertel, the emergency physician who treated Marissa on arrival at KGH that night.

Among the attendees was BCEHS Critical Care Coordinator Tim Flanagan who was working in PTCC that night and helped arrange the air ambulance. He says attending the reunion brought real meaning to his contribution. “By putting a face to what I entered into the computer, I found it to be an emotional experience. I was happy that I went to the reunion for some closure that we rarely get.”