‘It’s an honour’: Revelstoke paramedics celebrate decades long service

The year 1991 was big. The Canadian Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced, the Soviet Union ceased to exist and Airbags were invented. It was also the year Kellie Christy became a paramedic in Revelstoke.

This month, she is celebrating 30 years on the job.

“When you can go on a call, you know you can make a difference,” said Christy.

“I’ve given back to the community that opened its arms to me.”

Since the ski hill opened, ambulance calls have increased to 750 in 2019 from 521 in 2007.

Over the years, Christy has watched people in the community age. When she gets called into someone’s home, it’s usual for her to know them. She’ll recognize a photo and be familiar with the family’s history.

“People are not just a number on a screen,” she said.

Some events that stand out include the tour bus that collided head-on with a transport truck in a snowshed over Rogers Pass in 2000. The crash killed six people.

Christy was one of the first on-scene and one of the last to leave. There were no lights in the tunnel at the time, which probably contributed to the crash, but the darkness also helped blanket the trauma.

“That accident made me realise that sometimes I need to ask for help. I am not a rock,” she said.

“Death doesn’t bother me anymore. But how people die and the families left behind — that can be hard.”

Another story that’s memorable was responding to a possible leg amputation at a logging accident by the Goldstream River, north of Revelstoke.

Christy and a doctor went to the scene via helicopter. It was windy and Christy kept throwing up in latex gloves during the flight. While the logger was still lucid, he’s legs were twisted behind his back from a fallen tree. Christy sent the man’s kid to look for large cedar bark strips to help wrap and stabilize the legs for transport. There was no time for paper and pens, so Christy wrote notes on her arm.

The man was flown to hospital in Kamloops, where the admissions doctor told Christy, “now, that’s first aid.”

The logger later danced at his kid’s wedding.

Since Mayor Gary Sulz is also our community’s funeral director, he has witnessed Christy in action over the years.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with you in tragic circumstances and you’ve always come through,” he said in a video dedicated to Christy.

“On behalf of Revelstoke, thank you.”

In the same video, station manager Kirk Pitaoulis said, “I learned early on that you are the true leader of our station, but you are humble enough and kind enough to support me.”

It’s clear Christy has made a significant impact on her fellow paramedics, like Kaleigh Beattie.

“You have been the single most influential person in my career,” she said in the video. She’s been a paramedic in Revelstoke for 10 years.

“You helped me challenge through the battles of life to be a stronger person.”

Caralea Taylor is another local paramedic celebrating many years of service in Revelstoke.

Taylor took the job in 2001 because she wanted to help. She said her favourite part of the job is getting to know people in the community, listening to their stories and holding their hand through difficult moments.

“Patients always remember how you made them feel. Not the meds you gave or the IV you put in,” she said.

“It’s an honour and privilege to help people through their worst moments.”