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Right place, right time: Red Crossers perform first aid while deployed in Fort McMurray

Guest post by Shelly Makrugin, Canadian Red Cross

“I really, really wanted to say thank you. I don’t think I conveyed how grateful I was.” Maggie Ireland fought back tears as she thanked two Red Cross volunteers for their assistance after she and her niece, Jamie, were involved in a car accident in downtown Edmonton.

It happened in early June. The volunteers, Keith Colbourne and Dar Wegner, were working with the logistics team on the Fort McMurray fire response. They were on their way to get supplies when they came upon the crash.

Maggie and her niece were in their damaged vehicle, and Jamie was injured. “I climbed in the back and did C-spine control on Jaime,” Dar recalls, while Keith talked with 9-1-1 and conducted traffic control.

Maggie is trained in first aid herself, but couldn’t get out of her seatbelt or get to her niece. “I was panicking because I couldn’t get out of the car,” she says. Fortunately, Keith and Dar came by at the right time.

Keith and Dar are not only volunteering during the Red Cross’s emergency response for Fort McMurray, they both have connections with the fire-ravaged community. Keith was one of the thousands of employees evacuated from the work camps north of Fort McMurray and drove through the raging fire twice. Once, to drive some other employees to their homes in town so they could connect with their loved ones, the second time, to get himself to safety. While he waits for word that he can return to work, he is helping the Red Cross.

Dar was a National Construction Safety Officer and oversaw worker safety in gas/oil plants in the Fort McMurray area for four years and knows the region well. She also taught first aid for many years and is involved in search and rescue work. Dar also has experience volunteering in disaster response before, having been sent to New Orleans in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.

Maggie suffered whiplash in the crash and her niece a concussion and severe whiplash. Both will recover.

Keith and Dar were happy to connect with Maggie and talk about what happened, but like many volunteers, they shun the spotlight. Dar says, “We just do what we do.” After meeting with Maggie, they went right back to work supporting the Red Cross and the disaster response.

Find a first aid course in your area or for more information here.
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