Paramedic Zealotry in Victoria, BC

      by Andy Reynolds

      Cycling to work in Victoria, I rounded a notorious sharp downhill bend on Old Esquimalt Road to find a cyclist lying on the other side of the road. A 52-year-old on a cruiser, he had misjudged the corner, gone wide and come off. Three people were on the scene: one was just standing looking at him, one was calling an ambulance, and another was berating the victim for his stupidity. I checked him over and found a dislocated knee and a probable collarbone fracture, but he was fully conscious. I made him comfortable and we waited for the ambulance.

      Meantime, a friend of the victim happened to pass by, and we loaded the victim's bike into his van. After 20 mins, the ambulance arrived and they scooped him up onto the stretcher. The paramedic said to me "where's his helmet?" I replied that we were putting it in the van with the bike to drop off at the victim's house. "Oh no" demanded the paramedic in authoritarian fashion, "I'll take that". He looked at the helmet (a plain white polystyrene affair which had clearly not even contacted the pavement) and immediately began admonishing the victim - before he was even in the ambulance! "You and I need to talk", he said to the poor embarrassed and crippled fellow. "This helmet should have a hard shell!" Quite unable to believe my ears, I pointed out that the victim had not fallen on his head - to which the oh-so-knowledgeable paramedic replied "If he had, we would be here scooping up his remains". My suggestion that what the victim needed was a hard shell for his knee was met with a 'does not compute' look. And with that, they put the helmet into the ambulance with the victim and drove away.

      I wonder if they allowed his mashed knee to be repaired before they lectured him on helmet design. I doubt they would be regaling him with stories of their own cycling experience.

      Originally posted on bc.cycling newsgroup.
      Andy Reynolds is a cyclist in Victoria, British Columbia

May 1999
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