Rajan Maria spent two hours sitting in her wrecked vehicle with a firefighter holding her neck straight on Wednesday night, before her family gave in and drove her to the hospital herself when an ambulance never arrived.
Now, her family is calling for answers about how something like this could have happened.
“It was very bad … She was crying, she was totally in shock,” her husband Varun said.
“It’s hard when your loved one is in the car and the car is totally smashed, and you’re not able to help her get out of the car. You feel helpless in that moment.”
B.C. paramedic crisis: woman waits for more than an hour at Skytrain station
Rajan’s vehicle was T-boned in the intersection of 142 Street and 109 Avenue in Surrey around 8 p.m.
Firefighters were on the scene within minutes, and used the jaws of life to remove her vehicle’s door, but didn’t want to move her because of possible spinal injury.
But as the clock ticked down, no paramedics arrived.
“I was upset, I was totally scared. I was not able to think at that moment what was happening around me, why (is the) ambulance not here,” he said.
Neighbour Genevieve Burrows was working at home when she heard the crash and ran outside to see what was going on.
“It was a wreckage. The car is a write-off, air bags were deployed — it was just awful,” she said.
As the wait for an ambulance approached two hours, she said she heard over one of the first responder’s radios that the crash was still fifth in the priority queue for transport.
B.C. paramedic sounds alarm about crisis on front lines
“I can’t imagine what that must have been like for the family. All of a sudden you get the information that you have to wait, you’re fifth in line, you’ve already waited two hours,” she said.”
“What does that mean for the family? You’re then faced with making a decision.”
At that point, firefighters told the family they would be better off transporting Rajan to hospital themselves.
Without the benefit of a neck brace or C-spine stabilize equipment, firefighters helped slowly and carefully move Rajan from her wrecked vehicle to another family members’ car, then gave the family instructions on how to transport her as safely as possible to the hospital.
“It very scary scene for all of us because at that time we didn’t know how bad the injuries were,” Varun said.
B.C. paramedics warning of staff shortages and service delays
Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C. recorded the third-highest number of ambulance calls in the province’s history on Wednesday, but acknowledged it didn’t excuse the situation the Marias found themselves in.
“This is obviously not what we want to see happen. We’re very concerned about the results and the consequences for this family, with the stress involved but also the physical pain involved in it.”
Rajan, a 34-year-old mother of two, is now recovering at home — in pain but without any permanent damage to her neck or spine.
Global News contacted BC Emergency Health Services to ask how a situation like this could have happened, but did not receive a reply by deadline.
It’s a question the Maria family, and those who witnessed the crash’s aftermath, are still left grappling with.
“No British Columbian should have two hours, and in the end they still didn’t show up,” Burrows said.
“At the end of the day it is the B.C. government’s job to ensure they have the resources available to transport patients. This is their job, and they failed.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.