When Kathryn Linder headed off to work on July 14 it was a normal Thursday. She had no idea that a traumatic hostage taking at her office would leave her gravely injured with her survival in the hands of police officers, paramedics and a hospital trauma team.
"I shouldn't be here today and the reason I'm here is because of these people," says Linder.
In another step towards healing, Linder had the chance to meet up with the team of people that helped her that day in what would prove to be an emotional reunion for everyone.
"I'm so glad to have this opportunity. I have been overwhelmed by wanting to say thank you to all of these people but not even knowing how to find them," says Linder.
Just few days before the incident, the Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) added a multi-casualty trauma kit to the Tactical Team's response vehicle. Among other advanced first aid equipment, the kit includes hemostatic bandages to help stop severe bleeding.
When Tactical Team officers entered the building, Cst. Dwayne Harrison restrained the offender while Cst. George Shenton immediately called for EMS and used the bandages from the new trauma kit to put pressure on the life-threatening knife wounds to Linder's neck. Cst. Josh Bucsis applied additional bandages and both officers continued providing life-saving measures until EMS could take over her care.
"Within moments of entering the building our officers were at Kathryn's side," said Staff Sgt. Leon Borbandy, who served as the Incident Commander that day. "Saving Kathryn's life was their top priority. They immediately provided life-saving measures, kept her talking and stayed with her until the paramedics took over."
It was all hands on deck that day and Borbandy credits the unified response by police, Fire/EMS and the medical team at Chinook Regional Hospital for working seamlessly together to save a life.
"As soon as I yelled 'help me', an officer was there, putting pressure on my neck," says Linder.
She only remembers pockets of what happened next but as she was wheeled out of the office she remembers closing her eyes in the bright summer sunshine.
"As soon as I closed my eyes, I heard someone telling me to stay with them – encouraging me not to lose consciousness. I was thinking, I'm not going anywhere, it's just really bright out here," Linder adds with a smile.
Lethbridge Paramedics Tyler Skauge and Brayden Burton treated Kathryn as they rushed to Chinook Regional Hospital. They both credit the fantastic work of the responding LPS officers for the life saving measure in place when they arrived on scene.
"We have a lot of trust and confidence in each other when we arrive on a scene like this," says Deputy Chief of Fire and Emergency Services, Chris Tomaras. "Everything had been done exactly as it should have been when EMS arrived that day so all our crews had to do was take over and enhance her care."
Tomaras credits years of training and relationship building with LPS for the successful transfer of care that day.
"We've been training for this for more than five years. The fact that the immediate care from LPS was done so well and then transferred seamlessly to EMS and then again transferred and enhanced by the trauma team at the hospital is the reason Ms. Linder is here today," says Tomaras. "I'm incredibly proud of how we integrate our care and how all of our teams work together - that's not something you see in every municipality."
On arrival at Chinook Regional Hospital, Linder's care passed into the hands – literally and figuratively – of Emergency Department Physician, Dr. Alan Wilde, whose skilled fingers slipped in place to maintain the pressure on Linder's neck, allowing the paramedics to stand down.
Knife trauma being the urgent situation it is, her care passed swiftly from there to a surgical team, where capable hands in the operating room performed the painstaking, delicate mending. Finally, Linder was placed in the comforting hands of the Intensive Care Unit team, with whom she was able to stabilize and begin to heal.
The years of training and relationship-building Tomaras referred to had proven invaluable once again.
Linder's Mom was an ER nurse so she understands the intensity of the job and is grateful every day for the people who have committed their lives to helping other in emergency situations.
"Yes, they saved my life that day but it wasn't just my life they have impacted, they have also ensured my kids still have a mom which means everything to myself and my family."
Watch Kathryn's reunion with the team that saved her life.