Until 2018, that first picture was the moment that became the worst day of my life.
What you see is the aftermath of two paramedics who dropped my grandmother carrying her out of her bedroom. The figure in the white shirt is my mother.
I took that picture.
I was in my office in the next room right after I checked to see if the path was cleared and went into the office to get out of the way. They fucked up all the same.
I wasn’t expecting it. She had to be taken by paramedics before, and grandma knew the drill. This time, she just had to go back to the hospital because a home care nurse thought the PICC was dislodged. She was to go, have a doctor check it out, make an adjustment if the nurse was right, and come back home. It was routine and she was nonchalant about it because she was stoic by nature. She had just come from the hospital the day before after recovering from having her leg amputated, and after a few weeks, she was in goods spirits and she was discharged, already talking about getting a prothetic leg. She wasn’t home for a full 24 hours. Notice the red hospital sock she had on her remaining foot.
It didn’t turn out to be routine. The paramedics dropped her. I heard the crash, then my mother screaming, “You killed my mother!”
At this jolt, my journalist’s instinct took over, I grabbed my iPhone, and snapped that picture because I thought they killed her and this was going to be a criminal matter. I was thinking in terms of evidence for police.
Then my grandmother said they broke her arm. She was still alive from that big drop.
I remember them placing her in a cloth stretcher. Usually, paramedics placed her on one of those transport chairs and wheeled her out. They placed her on the stretcher without incident, and then she sunk in and the polls were above her.
The next moment came the crash, and then my mother screaming. She developed PTSD as a result of seeing it. There was blood on the floor and the wall as well as my grandmother’s teeth. It was a traumatic and gruesome sight.
We had company downstairs. They heard everything.
I had to stay home. Mom went to the hospital. The paramedics were there when she told the doctors in emergency what happened.
The second photograph I also took. That came from the Trauma Unit and the doctor accidentally dropped that paper. I took a picture of it.
I have about six banker’s boxes from that now-settled case. I have countless pictures of my grandmother’s open stump because the doctors no longer had skin to work with, and the VACC wasn’t helping. It looked like a pork chop, but somehow, it healed and closed, but it took months.
The paramedics never mentioned anything about what transpired when they messed up in the initial report, as if nothing happened. For any doctor who got their report, there would be no mention of the new injuries. It was more than just an arm broken in two places. It was also broken teeth, a brain bleed, bruising all over her body that turned black, her stump popped open which became a nightmare in itself, and she became completely immobile, as in becoming a quadriplegic.
They are not the only Ontario paramedics who didn’t do things right. There have been lawsuits over the years. You go to the courthouse and then spend forever on an ancient and slow computer looking through files and then working from there. For every chirpy press release, or woe-is-us uncritical article, there is more to the story than meets the eye.
My grandmother’s tragedy all happened during the long weekend. My life would change completely. I didn’t just have a bedridden grandmother who didn’t want to die to look after 24/7, I also had a mother who had PTSD 24/7, too. She was so focussed on my grandmother that she wasn’t looking after herself, and I wasn’t looking after me because I had two people to worry about. Mom won an award from CCAC for looking after grandma, not once, but twice.
But as I said, chirpy press releases about awards don’t tell you the whole story. It was a horrific ordeal. Everything was on my shoulders to ensure we were still functional. I had no one to share the burden or understand. Charmed, whimsical, and assured Alexandra Kitty, Mycroftian-smart and Batman-prepared to the hilt, was thrown into a lion’s den.
People began to annoy me with their “advice”, which was no advice. Easy, obvious answers that neither work nor confront the actual problem was off-putting. It was like getting diagnosed with cancer and someone tell you to take an aspirin for it.
Or they’d tell me everything was going to be fine, get over it, granny is old so she should just shove off and die, anyway; so why don’t we talk about me even less, and their trip to the shoe store more. Usually what happens is that people drop those who are going through a bad time — the “Just-World Hypothesis”, if you will.
In my case, I was the one who dropped people. Fuck that shit. I had people ask me why because they didn’t understand why I was no longer answering calls, texts, or emails. I never replied back. If you had to ask, you just didn’t get it, and you never will. Go have a ball at the shoe store, and live up to that shallow and consumerist Middle Class script. I would rather spend whatever last few moments I had with one half of my entire family than listen about high heels from an empty-head.
Those who understood weren’t of that ilk. I have been repeatedly accused of being too stoic, but I don’t see the point of falling apart. It is messier, a total life sink, and wastes time and resources better spent on fixing the problem than becoming the bigger one yourself. People come to me when things fall apart and are surprised how cool and productive I am in chaos — I am, but I got that way because I have thrown in enough anarchy to adjust, see the secret patterns, and then form a plan.
That is the reason why I got through it. Mom did, too. My grandmother, sadly, did not.
Yet I learned a lot. I went into the eye of the storm, and I discovered the machinations and playbooks of an Establishment. Even though I was distracted and torn from every side, I can now tell you the war strategies of certain institutions.
And when you are not tethered, distracted, or bogged down, you can study things, and figure other things out. Out of all of this wretched bad, I got a road map, and an invaluable one at that. While I prefer pre-hoc Method Research, I ended up with a post-hoc form of Method Research, and now have something to compare as well as add something new to my already singular repertoire.
Chaser is going to be more than just a news vehicle. It is going to be something more useful.
Because someone has to level that rigged playing field…and it might as well be me.
I survived worse, and came back swinging. I don’t waste good, but I also don’t waste bad.
So, there will be no fear-mongering, but plenty of brave-mongering.
And that is your message from…