CAF Story | Saving lives with a screwdriver

Video / July 9, 2021


We had received a mass casualty call. It came in over the radio that two patients who were essentially on death's door were going to be delivered, and they needed to divert the aircraft, which happened to be an American Osprey, from going to Bagdad directly to the Role 2 hospital, because our hospital was literally right beside the flight line. Where we walked them on stretchers from the back of the aircraft right into the front door. We had the hospital completely full and ready for them. The entire operating suite prepared. So we didn't even stop with the stretcher on the way into the operating room walking through the front doors.

My job is to maintain and repair medical equipment both on overseas operations and at home in our own Canadian Forces medical services clinics. For the first time, even after being in the CAF for about seven or eight years, I heard a heart rate alarm go off on a device when it was actually attached to a critical care patient. I heard the alarms on a device that I hear every single day just testing them, actually going off because it was being used on someone. And it mattered.

The doctors and surgeons had saved the patients' lives. It was a complete success. They had prevented the patients from crashing and they could now be transferred on to Bagdad for further medical care. So I got to watch and stand in front of the hospital as a C-130 from across the airstrip, run up straight towards us, turn around, and then I was able to help load the patients into the back of the C-130, which was just the coolest.

One of the most important things in a hospital, especially if you're running a field hospital, is ensuring that the most mission-critical kit that you have the fewest of is repaired. So you might have the Propaq MD patient monitor and we have about ten of those in a hospital, but we only have one oxygen concentrator, we only have one or two X-ray machines. So if one or two of the X-ray machines go down, that's not something you can just simply swap out and put another one in place. We've only got one, and when it's needed, it's absolutely needed at that time. For example, if the oxygen concentration device goes down and we can't bottle oxygen, suddenly, we can't use our ventilators. Now, the ventilator is useless because we can't deliver high purity oxygen to patients who absolutely need it, because they’re in that sort of trauma situation. If any of these pieces of the puzzle goes down, none of it works. So it's incredibly mission-critical that we do our jobs and we do our jobs right.

My mom used to bring home scrap electronics for me to take apart. So when I was in grade 2, she brought home a VCR and gave me a screwdriver, and I took it apart and brought it to school and showed everyone how the pulleys and the reader head and everything worked. Just ’cause I thought it was neat. It was cool. You know, I like that. That's something I've always loved. I love taking things apart, seeing how they worked and trying to understand the principles of operation, trying to tease that apart myself, because it's like a fun puzzle for me. And that slowly just sort of advanced. And I had the opportunity, after high school to join a trade like biomedical electronics tech and I figured it was a really good fit for me and it absolutely was.

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