'That day I really wanted EMS': Parents of 3-year-old taken to hospital in fire truck speak out

WATCH: A Toronto family visiting Calgary is now sharing their story after some frightening moments waiting for an ambulance. The couple's toddler was having a seizure, they called 911 but instead of being rushed to hospital in an ambulance, she rode in a fire truck. Jill Croteau reports.

It was a terrifying night for a Toronto couple visiting friends at their northwest Calgary home. Rishi Agarwal and Daniel Langdon were with their daughter Tara Agarwal when she started to convulse around midnight on Sunday. They called 911 and firefighters were first to arrive on scene.

“She had been seizing quite a few minutes before they arrived,” Langdon said.

“Our hearts dropped a little when we were told there was no EMS available.

“Her oxygen was low so it was critical she got to hospital as soon as possible.”

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But Agarwal said, instead of going to Alberta Children’s Hospital in an ambulance, they spent excruciating minutes waiting for one to arrive.

“The same eyes she uses to say, ‘I love you papa,’ those eyes are rolled back in her head and you freak out as a parent,” Agarwal said. “To see it happen for so long, thank god the fire department got there and got her to hospital but it had been minutes and minutes.”

“That day I really wanted EMS and I wish we could have had EMS,” Langdon added.

However, Agarwal noted the care offered by those on scene was “seamless.”

“The care with Alberta Children’s and the fire crew was amazing,” Agarwal said. “This almost seemed like normal procedure because it was so seamless.”

Captain Vern McNeice was at fire station 6. He said he made the call after waiting almost 20 minutes for the paramedics.

Inside fire engine where Tara rode to hospital.

Inside fire engine where Tara rode to hospital.

Jill Croteau/Global News

McNeice said he consulted with a doctor and together they made the choice to have her sit in the arms of a firefighter in the fire truck en route to hospital.

“Never have I been to call where we had to do that, it was unchartered territory.”

Captain McNeice with responding fire crew.

Captain McNeice with responding fire crew.

Jill Croteau/Global News

“It wasn’t perfect but you’ve got to deal with what you got, and we did,” McNeice added. “We were all thinking about it on our days off and it weighs on you and you hope everything is good. It’s a rich experience to see her now.

“That’s the option we had and I took it I would do it again, but I hope we don’t have to.”

Tara is expected to make a full recovery and the family is set to be on their way back home to Toronto later this week.

Family with fire crew.

Family with fire crew.

Jill Croteau/Global News

There is an EMS station on the same road, seconds away from the home where the incident happened.

Alberta Health Services said response times continue to be impacted by “extremely high volumes” and is reviewing the call.

In a statement from AHS, officials said “EMS arrived exactly one minute after CFD made the decision to transport the patient.”

“We know that waiting for an ambulance is difficult and stressful, and that this is exacerbated when a response time is longer than it should be,” the statement read.

Read more:

‘We’re on our knees’: Alberta EMS union says system on the verge of collapse

Ministry of Health spokesperson Steve Buick said AHS is adding staff as fast as they can.

“They’ve increased their paramedic staffing by more than 200 in the past two years, but they’re still short because their staff are tired and not as available as they were a year ago or two years ago. Very understandably,” Buick said.

“The bottom line is, response times are too long and we’ll work at it until we get them back within AHS’s targets.

“We expect the pressure on the system to ease as the current wave of COVID recedes, but we’re in an unprecedented health crisis that’s lasted more than two years, and it continues to impact the system here and in every other province.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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