August 10, 2023 | Our Patients, Operations

STARS saves patient; no helicopter required

Portrait of STARS Very Important Patient Rory Stewart in the STARS Emergency Link Centre.

STARS is more than transport. Whether by air, ground or virtually, the expert care delivered by our doctors, nurses and paramedics comes in many forms. This means we use any kind of transportation and any tools necessary to reach our patients and deliver the timely care essential to saving lives.

Sometimes that means a patient will receive life-saving care without flying in our helicopter or seeing any crew members.

Just ask STARS Very Important Patient Rory Stewart, who credits STARS for helping save his life.

“Before, I always attached a helicopter to STARS — to me, that’s what STARS was,” Stewart said, recalling his fateful day. “Since my incident, I now know a lot more.”

The first time his heart stopped, Stewart was more than 1,000 km away from the STARS Emergency Link Centre (ELC), the critical care logistics hub through which emergency responses are coordinated. He soon discovered how it — and STARS Vigilant housed within it — connects patients with help beyond STARS.

It was the end of a cold January day at a Petronas Canada worksite on the Alaska Highway in northeast B.C., where Stewart was lunching with coworkers. Then he went into full cardiac arrest.

“Apparently I went white, grabbed my chest, and they figured I was basically dead before I even hit the table,” he said.

Colleagues sprang into action with CPR, an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and calling in a medic from a nearby industry mobile treatment centre. Stewart regained consciousness while calls were made to both 911 and Petronas Canada’s 24-hour emergency response line monitored by STARS Vigilant, a hub within the ELC dedicated to remotesite registration and work-alone monitoring for industry.

“The Vigilant team activated Petronas Canada’s internal emergency program and protocol notification system,” said John Griffiths, director, STARS ELC. “They also recognized the significance of a medical emergency and transferred it to the critical-patient side, where the STARS transport team were then engaged. The team worked together to get Stewart the help he needed that day.”

STARS VIP Rory Stewart talks with STARS Emergency Link Centre Director John Griffiths in the STARS Emergency Link Centre

STARS VIP Rory Stewart talks with STARS Emergency Link Centre Director John Griffiths on the Vigilant side of the STARS Emergency Link Centre


STARS transport physician Matt Inwood was in a conference call with BC Ambulance Service to determine the best response for Stewart. The nearest STARS base was an 80-minute helicopter flight away, but a ground ambulance would be 20 minutes quicker, so it was determined that’s how Stewart should be transported to Fort St. John, 136 km down the road.

Co-workers with Stewart were on the phone taking direction from Dr. Inwood when Stewart sustained a second cardiac arrest. Once again, he was brought back with CPR and an AED before a ground ambulance arrived.

While in the ambulance, he arrested for a third time, and soon after arriving in Fort St. John he was on an airplane to Vancouver for emergency surgery. There he had a quintuple bypass and was told fewer than three per cent of patients survive.

From the colleagues who never gave up on him to the allied network of emergency responders that led to his life-saving surgery, Stewart was beyond grateful for his second chance and for the role STARS played in tying it all together.

“I now know that STARS goes way beyond helicopters,” he said. “That’s just one part of what they do and what they offer. They have a team of doctors and medical people who are trained and qualified to give the necessary advice to help in situations of trauma, no matter what it might be or where you might be at.”

That’s what it’s all about, said Nicole Segstro, manager of operations and business development with STARS Vigilant. “STARS Vigilant provides a web of safety services,” she said. “In this case we helped to mitigate some of the confusion that can happen in these stressful, dynamic situations. Because we were responding to the phone calls coming in on the client’s emergency line, we were able to coordinate with our critical patient team to ensure that everybody from the transport physician to the individuals at the site were aware of what was going on. That allowed us to create the best possible response for Rory and his unique circumstances.”

Stewart visited with some of the STARS Vigilant team involved in his call almost four years after his incident, to show his gratitude.

“They’re professional, they’re dedicated, and that’s who you want on the phone when you have an incident,” he said. “You want people that are dedicated and know what they’re doing.”

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