Stories about awards often come with Hollywood endings.
That’s not always the case though, as happened with an honour local emergency coordinator Shaun Koopman and his wife Lindsay Klopp received this spring.
Koopman doesn’t want to relive the actual event, but he points to what happened as an illustration of how the need to know lifesaving skills can arise anywhere anytime.
“We can use this as an opportunity to promote first-aid and CPR training, the importance of practising … other people can learn from this,” he says, adding it is also important to respect the power of the ocean and water.
The Lifesaving Society’s first-aid course, he says, is similar to those offered by St. John’s Ambulance or the Red Cross. It also offers water-specific courses.
“Our rec centres and Saint John’s Ambulance … for a city of our size, we have a lot of options where people can undertake this training at,” adds Klopp. “There’s YouTube videos from the Lifesaving Society and the Canadian Red Cross … so even if you do not have the funding or the time immediately to attend an official course, the resources are out there.”
Koopman and Klopp were both on the scene and among several people who helped a woman in distress last spring off the waters of Tofino. Unfortunately, the woman could not be revived after she was brought ashore. The couple and friend Amin Jivraj plus five others, were all recognized for their actions last May.
“None of us had met the other five before, but almost all of us were Lifesaving Society national lifeguards or, mostly, national lifeguard instructors,” Koopman says. “All just happened to be surfing on Tofino that day and heard the call for help.”
Koopman, Klopp and Jivraj were among those honoured at the 107th Annual Commonwealth Awards for Honours and Rescue held at the Hotel Vancouver in March. They were among those receiving the Silver Medal for Bravery and the M.C. Griffiths Award, given to those who have applied the skills and knowledge gained through Lifesaving Society courses to help victims in an aquatic emergency.
The incident, chronicled in the award program, began when a woman and her daughter, in the Tofino area for another daughter’s wedding, were floating on surfboards when a wave pulled them into heavy surf. Nearby surfers responded to get the woman onto a board and after a prolonged struggle against the waves got her to shore.
Koopman was one of several people taking turns to provide chest compressions to the woman, while Klopp and Jivraj helped monitor the daughter’s condition. The group continued to give medical attention as did a paramedic that arrived with a defibrillator.
The woman was rushed to the airport to be airlifted to Vancouver, but she did not survive.
Koopman credits Alex Michaels of the local Campbell River Search and Rescue for his help following the incident.
“He did a critical incident stress debrief for the three of us afterward,” Koopman says, adding it is important people that have had to respond in similar situations to reach out for this kind of assistance in the aftermath.
As far as the award, Koopman and Klopp did not attend the event in Vancouver.
“We think what we did was important but not worthy of an award,” he says. “The people that deserve the credit are the people that do this every single day. Your ambulance attendants, your first responders, your firefighters, the people that go into work every day and see those terrible things, go home and still take their kid to a ball game.”
Koopman adds that if someone already is proficient in lifesaving skills such as CPR, they should teach these to others.
“The most effective way to learn something is to teach others how to do it,” he adds.