Ten years ago, when Chloé Raby-Roussel was a 19-year-old university student, she went into cardiac arrest while brushing her teeth one night.
“When it happened, I screamed at the top of my lungs,” she said.
Her roommate called for an ambulance. Emergency responders arrived at her apartment on Van Horne Avenue in under two minutes, rushing up three flights of stairs to get to her.
Paramedics Jean-Olivier Charbonneau and Marcelle Ouimet found Raby-Roussel on the floor without a pulse.
The team performed CPR on her and intubated her until an advanced care unit got there.
“We started advanced life support, putting in an IV, giving the drugs and working feverishly to prepare the medication,” said Richard Daly, an advanced care paramedic.
Ouimet, who has worked as a paramedic since 2006, said the team struggled to keep Raby-Roussel alive en route to the hospital.
“We got the pulse back, then it was gone, then it came back,” said Ouimet. “We wouldn’t let her go.”
Doctors put Raby-Roussel in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator for two days. When she woke up, she didn’t understand where she was or even know her age.
“I had short-term memory loss,” she said. “I thought I was 13 years old [and] I was in high school.”
Although most of her memories came back a week later, she still couldn’t recall the night’s events. It took her a year to piece together what happened.
“I didn’t know exactly the details, but it took me a little while to realize it was serious.”
‘I thought of all the ifs’
In October, the healthy mother of two wrote to Urgences-santé to thank the paramedics and asked to meet them in person.
She credits her maternity leave and the pandemic for allowing her to reflect on how her life could have ended.
“I thought of all the ifs, what could have happened, but in the end, I think all the stars aligned: I was not alone. I was in good health. I lived close to a hospital, these guys were working [that] night… I was lucky,” she said.
Holding her baby, Raby-Roussel and the team of emergency care providers reunited Wednesday at the Urgences-santé headquarters.
“Usually, we don’t know what happens to the people that we treated,” said advanced care paramedic France Soulière, who attended to Raby-Roussel.
“We remember [her] because she was young … so it’s nice that we get to do this today.” For Daly, seeing Raby-Roussel alive and well was heartwarming. “When something like this happens and someone goes on to live a full life, it validates our work,” he said.
During her hospitalization, Raby-Roussel had a pacemaker implanted. Doctors don’t know what caused her heart to stop, but she’s grateful to be living a fulfilling life.
“I have two very nice kids. I have a husband. I was able to travel to a lot of places, so I couldn’t have asked for a better 10 years after that,” she said.
“The paramedics don’t often get thank yous. It’s usually the doctors, but my kids would not necessarily be here today if [the paramedics] were not there for me.”