Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory installs defibrillators to be 'heart safe community'

Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte say the average ambulance response time for the territory was nearly 16 minutes last year and leaders are working to install 33 defibrillators to ensure there is always one within a four-minute drive of residents.

Average EMS response time hit nearly 16 minutes, say Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte

Eight people are shown staring at the camera on a sunny day. The chief is holding a white and red box with a handle and the word SaveStation on it. A woman next to him is holding a bright-green box-shaped defibrillator.
Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Chief Donald Maracle, third from left, holds a SaveStation cabinet along with members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Community PAD Program following a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 7. (Supplied by Facebook/Tyendinaga Mohawk Community PAD Program)

Don Brinklow was facing down a breakaway at the Deseronto, Ont., arena when he felt a "little flick" in his chest.

It was September 2014 and he was playing goalie in a hockey game between two area fire departments.

Brinklow said he was later told he collapsed, making a spectacular "TSN moment" save as he fell. He has no memory of the save, though, because he had suffered a heart attack.

Luckily there were firefighters on the ice who knew CPR and used an arena defibrillator.

The now 62-year-old said it was on his chest within three minutes.

"I was gone for 17 minutes before they got me back," Brinklow said. "They hit me seven times with the defibrillator."

A 4-minute drive away

Eight years and a heart transplant later, he's volunteering as part of the team working to bring dozens of defibrillators to Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in order to make it Canada's first SaveStation Heart Safe Community.

That means installing automated, external defibrillators throughout the area so residents are always within a four-minute drive.

Brinklow credits the quick response time with saving his life that day at the rink, but the average response time for Hastings County Paramedics to reach the territory was just under 16 minutes in 2022, according to Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.

Chief Donald Maracle said the first four minutes are "critical" for surviving cardiac arrest.

"Every minute matters after that," he added during an interview with CBC Radio's All In A Day host Alan Neal.

"Of course, the longer the treatment is delayed, the higher the risk of not surviving at all or having complications from it."

A red and white cabinet, with the words "public access defibrillator" is shown on a sunny day at what appears to be a harbour. There are boats and condo buildings in the background.
SaveStations, like the one shown in this file photo, provide 24/7 access to a defibrillator. (Supplied by Corin Vail)

With that countdown in mind, the community is working toward a goal of installing 33 defibrillators.

Twelve are currently in place. Maracle said it costs about $2,000 for a defibrillator, but that price tag goes up based on the type of cabinet needed to store it. COVID-19 surplus funding is paying for the project, he added.

New program aims to make sure an automated external defibrillator is never more than four minutes away

Most installed by June

Corin Vail, a former paramedic and owner of PUSH For Life Education and Training Services, is working with the community on the project. He said bi-monthly CPR and emergency response training will be offered, as well.

The hope is to install most of the defibrillators by June, she said.

"It's one of the exciting parts of this program — for the first time in Canada SaveStation has made it possible to place a defibrillator outside, accessible 24/7."

Nine people wearing light blue, black and white clothing pose for a family photo on a bridge. They're smiling and there are leaves on the ground, so it appears to be autumn.
Don Brinklow, middle, is shown with his wife and other family members. The 62-year-old survived a heart attack in 2014 thanks to firefighters with CPR training and access to a defibrillator. (Supplied by Don Brinklow)

Brinklow, who described the project as an "amazing thing" for the community, said his wife and children are members of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, and they'll learn where each defibrillator will be stationed.

Access to a defibrillator, and learning how to use it, will give people the peace of mind they did everything they could to save a loved one or stranger, regardless of the outcome, Brinklow explained.

"It's gonna give everybody a chance."


Dan Taekema


Dan Taekema is CBC’s reporter covering Kingston, Ont. and the surrounding area. He’s worked in newsrooms in Chatham, Windsor, Hamilton, Toronto and Ottawa. You can reach him by emailing

With files from All In A Day