Detour due to bridge closure in the Gaspé nearly costs lives of mother, baby
Paramedics describe harrowing 11.5-km detour with patient, 36 weeks pregnant, minutes from death
Pierre-Luc Desjardins nearly lost his wife and unborn son a week ago, and paramedics say the detour they were forced to take because of a bridge closure on the Grand Cascapédia River cost precious minutes in what was a critical situation.
"Five more minutes and they probably would have lost the baby," said paramedic Mike Geraghty, who drove the ambulance from New Richmond to Maria — under normal circumstances, a 15-minute trip.
"It was extremely critical. When we arrived at the hospital we didn't even stop, we didn't even slow down in the emergency room. We went straight up to the operating room."
Geraghty says only twice in his 32-year career has he had to wheel a patient directly into the OR.
Placenta previa led to bleeding
Marie-Line Barriault was diagnosed with a condition called placenta previa, in which the placenta attaches too close to the cervix, causing potentially dangerous complications.
"I knew if she started bleeding, it was an emergency," said Desjardins in an exclusive interview with CBC.
Last Thursday, when Barriault, then 36 weeks pregnant, started bleeding profusely, Desjardins called 911 immediately.
"I was stressed out about the bridge," Desjardins said. "I was scared for my wife, I was scared for my baby."
Geraghty's partner, paramedic Guylène Levesque, treated Barriault on the way to the hospital. She said the woman's blood pressure was dangerously low, and she lost consciousness several times during the ambulance trip.
Desjardins arrived at the hospital just in time to see his son born, delivered by emergency C-section.
"When the little baby came out, he started to cry, so everyone was really happy," he said, relieved and grateful for the good work of the paramedics and hospital staff.
"It was stressful, but it ended well."
Barriault and baby Louis are back home in New Richmond with Desjardins and Louis's big sister Rosalie, 6.
Detour for some time to come
The ambulance detour was made necessary by Transports Québec's closing of the bridge on Highway 132 on May 8, after a pillar shifted, causing a big dip in the roadway.
It's not yet known how long motorists will have to take the 11.5-kilometre detour on rural roads that are sometimes too narrow and winding to allow emergency vehicles to pass other traffic. The water level on the Grand Cascapédia remains high, and the swift current and debris have made it impossible for divers to do an underwater inspection of the tilting pillar.
A Transport Ministry spokesperson says work will begin next week to improve the rural roads being used for the detour.
Details aren't yet available, but improvements to intersections to improve the flow of traffic are planned.
More resources during closure
Paramedics have asked officials at the regional health board, the CISSS de la Gaspésie, to staff a second ambulance full time for the duration of the bridge closure to reduce response times.
Geraghty said one ambulance dispatched from New Richmond is staffed 24 hours per day, while a second team is on call in another municipality
He said the detour adds 20 to 40 minutes, round trip, to the hospital in Maria, 15 kilometres west of New Richmond on the opposite side of the river.
"This case had a good outcome," Geraghty said. "Hopefully it doesn't take a bad outcome before they react."
A spokesperson for the CISSS de la Gaspésie said, however, even with the bridge closure and current staffing, established response times are still within required limits.
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