Learning about community…

Last week, I had the privilege and pleasure of learning first-hand about one of the communities we serve in Eastern Region – the beautiful Renfrew County. Michael Nolan, Chief of Paramedics for Renfrew County, invited me to ride-along with him to meet some of the residents and community leaders to help increase awareness of 211 service in that area. I welcomed the opportunity and looked forward to putting faces to names I only knew through email and through phone conversations.

The day started at 7:30 am when we left Almonte, Ontario, heading for a 9:30 am meeting in Pembroke. Driving along, I began to notice that almost every driver that passed us on the road was waving to Michael – and he was waving back. Being from Lanark County, this did not surprise me as most people give a small wave to passers-by as a friendly greeting. It wasn’t until later that I realized Michael actually knew each of them and could tell you a bit about them if asked.

I attended a meeting that morning regarding Renfrew County’s Active Transportation plan. I learned that the County had partnered with a local non-profit, KidActive, and community members to improve roadways so that they could be shared with cyclists and pedestrians. The initiative is meant to increase the environmental health of the community, and Renfrew County has made some significant progress on the project. I also learned from a local business owner about a program whereby his bike shop fixes up used bicycles and donates them to kids who do not have the means to pay for them.

Next, we were off to the campaign launch of 211 Eastern region funder and supporter, the Renfrew County United Way. It was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed meeting some great agency representatives and shared stories about similar programs in our respective areas. Also in attendance was Joanne King, Executive Director at the Community Resource Centre of Killaloe – a 211 Eastern Region data provider and wonderful advocate for 211 service in Renfrew County. We then dropped off some 211 materials to the good people at the Military Family Resource Centre in Petawawa.

The afternoon included a brief meeting with the Director of Operations for Carefor in Renfrew County to discuss a developing partnership with 211 Eastern Region to coordinate non-urgent transportation, followed by tours of the Fire/Paramedic Dispatch centre and the Paramedic base in Renfrew. I enjoyed climbing in the back of the ambulances (new and old), and secretly longed to take one for a test drive…

The highlight of the day was when we responded to a call from dispatch about an elderly woman living alone whose personal medical alarm had been activated. Off we went, driving very fast (didn’t want to know how fast) through the centre of town, sirens blaring and lights flashing on our way to the address provided. After a couple of white-knuckle moments (for me, anyhow), we arrived at the address to find an elderly woman sitting out in a chair on her front lawn, enjoying the sunny weather. Chief Nolan got out of the vehicle and asked whether she was OK. She had apparently pushed her button by mistake, but the alarm company was not able to make contact, so the Paramedics were sent.

“Gladys” was living alone in her house, and still very independent, but didn’t get around as well as she used to. Michael went inside with her to call the alarm company and to make sure there were no safety hazards for her. We left Gladys back on her chair in the front yard, and Michael explained to me that he had referred her to the Paramedic Home Visit program, a made-in-Renfrew County program that allows seniors like Gladys a regular check-in visit from a Paramedic to ensure that she can stay in her home and remain healthy and independent for as long as possible. After all, that is where Gladys wanted to be.

The ride-along with Chief Nolan was a perfect opportunity to raise awareness of 211 in Renfrew County, but more than that, it gave me a better appreciation for the people, the services and the landscape that I can now share with the team at 211 Eastern Region. Sincere thanks to Chief Nolan for his time, his introductions and his dedicated service to the residents of Renfrew County.

– Written by Karen Milligan

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