It started out as a nightmare; Prince Rupert’s Betsy Smith noticed her partner of 17 years, Robert Milton, wasn’t breathing. A situation Smith had already been through before, that didn’t end well. But what at first seemed like a nightmare turned out to a heroic story of what people are capable of in an emergency. Not only is Milton alive and well today, the BC Ambulance Service has also honoured Smith with the Vital Link award over the weekend for her actions.
“This was round two for my mother,” says Betsy’s daughter Violet Baker. “She had tried to revive my father who died of a heart attack in 1991. Even without knowing how to do CPR, this time, she was much more collected.”
On April 29, 2012, Milton was lying in bed when Smith noticed that his breathing patterns had changed, and then there was silence; he had stopped breathing completely. She immediately called 9-1-1 and the BC Ambulance Service dispatcher began giving her instructions to begin cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). A terrifying task for Smith to do considering the last time she was in this situation she was not able to save her husband.
“Betsy Smith performed CPR for approximately 10 minutes while paramedics were en route,” says paramedic Mike Sorensen, who was one of the paramedics who responded to the call on April 29. “The actions of bystanders during those first critical minutes are so important to the survival and recovery of cardiac patients.”
When BC Ambulance Service paramedics and Fire Department first responders arrived to the scene they administered two shocks to Milton’s heart before transporting him to the hospital.
Although Milton was in the hospital for around a month after his cardiac arrest, today he is alive and well thanks to his partner’s quick actions.
“I don’t want to be thought of as a hero, it’s just nice to know that I’ve got my sweetie with me because of what I did,” Smith told The Prince Rupert Northern View.
On Saturday, August 4, there was a Vital Link award ceremony held at the BC Ambulance Service Station in Prince Rupert. In attendance was BC Ambulance Service dispatchers and paramedics, Fire Department first responders and plenty of Smith and Milton’s proud family members. Smith said she never expected to be recognized for something like this in her life, and will treasure her award.
Each year there are approximately 50 Community Awards presented by the BCAS to thank members of the public for performing bystander CPR and quickly responding to the needs of others in an emergency.
The BCAS estimates that they attend around 2,400 to 2,800 cardiac arrests a year in the province, with only 12 per cent of British Columbians who suffer a cardiac arrest surviving.