June 23, 2021
Allison Maffin likes to be the one asking the questions. She shies away from center stage and deflects the opportunity to talk about herself.
The EMD for Medavie Health Services, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, would rather shine the attention upon those she assists. A call in which Maffin provided CPR instructions to 10-year-old Kian Wu reflects her preference to provide the critical voice of EMS in the background.
Kian and his 7-year-old brother, Grayson Wu, were visiting their grandma Patti Chatterson on a cold November day in 2018. When they went to ask their grandma about lunch, they found her slouching on the couch. They checked her pulse and her breathing. They called 911. Maffin guided Kian through nearly 400 chest compressions while waiting several minutes for response to arrive. Paramedics defibrillated Chatterson four times. Grandma survived.
The boys received a Medavie Health Services – West (MHSW) Star Award for their lifesaving efforts during a ceremony in which Maffin was among the first responders invited. The occasion marked the first time Maffin ever met the people she assisted over the phone during her 17 years with Medavie Health Services communication center.
Did Maffin go for the spotlight? Did she expect the attention for adapting her “tone, language, and instructions” to be more easily understood by the boys?
Of course not, according to Maffin’s supervisor, Michele Thomas.
Allison remained humble and focused on the two child callers. Whenever asked about the call she always began with a teary smile, “I’m just so proud of those boys.”
Maffin applauds the boys’ efforts.
“The kids, they were the best,” Maffin said. “They listened to my every word. They stayed calm. I’m still amazed at how well they did the compressions for that amount of time.”
A second notable call—and there have been many—found Maffin connected to a caller stuck with his niece in a hospital elevator. This was no ordinary call to remedy a mechanical issue. The niece was pregnant, in active labor, and on their way to antepartum. The uncle’s cell phone was their only mode of communication between floors.
The highly unusual situation of entrapment complicated by a possible childbirth and delivery accelerated Maffin’s thinking out of the box (no pun intended). The Medical Priority Dispatch System™ (MPDS®) Protocol was open to the appropriate PAIs and, until the baby’s further notice, she worked fast behind the scenes to marshal all other necessary resources. Medical personnel beelined to the elevator and spoke through the doors to the patient and her uncle. Fortunately, the niece and uncle were safely out of the elevator before baby delivered.
Maffin downplayed her quick thinking.
“Any other person [answering the call] would have done the same,” she said. “We're all here for the patient. We’re all very caring, and that’s why we keep doing this.”
Maffin wasn’t entirely new to emergency services when she started part time at MHSW in 2004. She was a hospital unit assistant for eight years prior to communications and, admittedly, favored the trauma department because of the intensity required to help the patients in a medical crisis. She now works full time at the communication center, and according to Thomas, she’s an all-around ideal EMD. Maffin consistently achieves high compliance scores, mentors new members of the team, and “continually represents our profession with grace, humility, and excellence.”
The compliments get at the core of Maffin’s dedication. She’s an advocate for the service provided to callers and completely supportive of a staff of which many have been there close to or exceeding Maffin’s nearly two decades.
“We don’t look for a lot of attention,” she said. “Once in a while it does happen. We meet people. But it’s the good feeling of helping, saving a life, that matters.”
MHSW communications is a secondary PSAP, providing medical calltaking and dispatching for Saskatoon and the surrounding area. They are an Accredited Center of Excellence.