By Tyrone Burke
Photo by Martin Lee

Patient is VSA.

That’s first responder jargon for unresponsive:  “vital signs absent.”

When the Department of University Safety received reports that a student was lying unconscious on campus, Staff Sgt. Richard Heron rushed to the scene, accompanied by Evan Desroches and Justin Morell of the Carleton University Student Emergency Response Team (CUSERT).

Heron secured the scene as Desroches and Morell began performing CPR and provided oxygen. They readied a portable automated external defibrillator and delivered a shock to restore normal cardiac rhythm. For 10 minutes, they administered first aid.

“It didn’t take that much time,” says Heron, a retired military police sergeant who has worked at Carleton for 11 years.   “But it seemed like an eternity. (The collapsed student) was lucky, and Evan and Justin are fine young lads, they did a tremendous job that day.”

An ambulance arrived to transport the student to hospital, where he could receive more intensive treatment. On April 8 at the RA Centre, Heron, Desroches and Morell were honoured with the St. John Ambulance Life Saving award for the critical first aid care that they administered on the scene.

“Not only did they take training to be prepared to provide life saving skills, they took action when it was necessary,” says Shawn McLaren, director of learning and operations for St. John Ambulance’s federal district. “Not everyone does. [Desroches, Morell and Heron] performed CPR and saved a life. Let that soak in for a second. That means there’s a family that doesn’t need to figure out how to go on without a person in their life. A person is still here because they took action.”

For Desroches – who plans to pursue a career in law enforcement after graduation– developing skills in crisis situations has been a core part of his Carleton experience. The third-year criminology student signed up for CUSERT before even arriving on campus.

A Good Environment

“Having to respond to people in a crisis really gets you out of your shell,” says Desroches, noting he was shy before enrolling at Carleton. “In a crisis, there’s something that you have to do. In policing, you need to be able to keep your cool in that kind of situation. CUSERT has been a way to develop that, and for me it’s a really good environment. I’ve met a lot of friends through it and gotten a lot of training.”

In addition to providing first aid at university-sanctioned events, CUSERT provides on-call emergency response on the Carleton campus 24-hours a day, seven days a week. A volunteer organization, team members like Desroches and Morell make a big commitment.

Each week, CUSERT members put in a minimum of 12 hours on shift and two hours of training. They check regularly into the CUSERT office, and end up spending so much time together that Desroches likens their bonds to those developed with roommates.

Bonds Can Be Critical

In a crisis, those bonds can be critical. Desroches and Morell have worked together for three years, and their familiarity played a role in the quality of care they were able to provide.

“Justin and I have a really good camaraderie.” Desroches says. “We work really well together, and when we got the call, it was almost like we could read each other’s thoughts.  We planned who would do what, and it all went really fast.

Their rapport didn’t go unnoticed. In addition to the St. John Ambulance Award, Desroches, Morell and Heron were honoured with the Carleton University President’s Award at the Service Excellence Awards on March 1. For Desroches, it’s the notion of public service that drove him to join CUSERT and drives his future plans.

“I had always grown up doing first aid,” he says, “but CUSERT gave me a chance to use it to actually help people.”

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 in
Share: Twitter, Facebook