Sunday, May 03, 2015

First aid class turns out to be dangerous

This could be one of the strangest stories I've read in a while, from The Globe and Mail. Here's the lede:

Randy Theriault spent 30 years captaining ships and was praised as an expert seafarer who honed his craft through experience. So, when the Nova Scotia man landed a well-paying job as first mate on a massive fishing vessel this spring, only one small hurdle stood in his way – a first aid course that seemed to be merely a formality.

Now his grieving family is struggling to understand how the 48-year-old Mr. Theriault could die suddenly of pneumonia during a first-aid course designed to deal with such situations. On the morning of April 17, after suffering through fever, shortness of breath, nausea and chest pains while attending the week-long Maritime Advanced First Aid course at Nova Scotia Community College, Mr. Theriault was found dead at a Port Hawkesbury bed and breakfast where he had been staying.

Later in the story:

The college says it is investigating what went on inside the classroom. The first-aid course is run by St. John Ambulance, which says Mr. Theriault exhibited normal vital signs during the course, although he “complained from time-to-time of flu-like symptoms.” In a statement, St. John Ambulance spokeswoman Clara Wicke said “instructors agreed to provide Mr. Theriault with reasonable accommodation to complete his certification by allowing him to make up missed time at a later date.”

That statement has upset Mr. Theriault’s family, who say text messages in the days leading up to his death indicate he was faced with the choice of staying in class or failing the course because it was not offered regularly. 

They want to know how Mr. Theriault could die while learning how to deal with emergencies such as respiratory ailments at sea, which includes pneumonia.

The family questions the assertion that Mr. Theriault displayed normal vital signs in the class. In one of his final texts to Ms. Tobin, he says he has a fever, and that he felt embarrassed about his laboured breathing in the classroom.

(Thanks to Dr. Susan Shaw for citing this story on Twitter.)

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