Biker questions ambulance response time after sudden paralysis
Published Friday, January 20, 2017 5:55PM PST
A Vancouver man who was paralyzed when a blood vessel burst in his vertebrae says he had to wait nearly 40 minutes for an ambulance when he lives just two blocks from a hospital.
Andrew Cho, a former professional mountain biker, collapsed in his home on Jan. 6. The 29-year-old had been experiencing neck stiffness and loss of warmth in his hands, but was suddenly unable to move from the neck down.
"It was probably the scariest moment of my life," he told CTV News two weeks after the incident.
When he collapsed, his phone landed just 10 inches away from his body, and he was able to drag his body to it using only his chin. It took him a few tries, but he was able to use his tongue and Siri, a voice-activated feature on his iPhone, to place a call to 911.
Cho lives just blocks from St. Paul's Hospital, but was told that higher priority calls would take precedence.
"I'm not sure exactly why my call was de-prioritized, but it did end up taking closer to 40 minutes for an ambulance to arrive," he said.
The BC Ambulance Service would not provide specific details about the call due to privacy reasons, but a spokesperson said the case would be investigated.
"Our sympathies really go out to this patient," said Joe Acker, director of patient care delivery for B.C. Emergency Health Services.
Acker said there was a "super high volume of calls" placed that day due to a spike in the flu and poor weather conditions.
"Anyone that is injured and needs help and doesn't get it quickly is a concern for us, and I know that BC Emergency Health Services is launching an inquiry into this particular incident," Health Minister Terry Lake said of Cho's case.
An ambulance eventually arrived and Cho was rushed to hospital where he learned that a blood vessel had burst in his vertebrae. He had surgery to relieve the pressure on his spine.
He has since regained some movement, and friends and well-wishers have raised more than $101,000 in donations to help cover his expenses while he's receiving care. He's currently being treated at G. F. Strong Rehab Centre.
"I can lift up my right leg and I can touch my head as of yesterday… The left side is slow to come, but I just want my life back," he said.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber