Behind the reclining chair where Janis Treleaven sleeps, lights flash on the toy ambulance the islander received as a 50th birthday present. Three other toy ambulances are parked beside their flashy counterpart, organized in descending size.
Since she watched the exploits of ambulance squad 51 in the ‘70s TV series Emergency! it’s been Treleaven’s dream to be a paramedic.
Five years ago, her dream came true.
For five years Treleaven has responded to emergency calls on Bowen Island, first as a driver, then as an emergency medical responder and then as a primary care paramedic.
As a B.C. Ambulance Service Provincial Honour Guard, Treleaven’s at many Bowen events in uniform – including Remembrance Day and Bowfest.
But last May, while on the job, Treleaven sustained an injury to her right shoulder, preventing her from returning to work.
“[I] tore everything off my shoulder, basically. It was partly dislocated.” she said. “One of the two heads in my bicep came off as well.”
As a workplace injury, Treleaven received workers compensation and WorkSafe BC set up her surgery, which took place in June 2018.
Sometime in her projected six-month recovery period, Treleaven re-injured her shoulder and needed a second surgery.
After looking into the reinjury, WorkSafe BC said that the second surgery and recovery would not be covered.
The surgery went ahead February 15 in Squamish without the WorkSafe financial and organizational support.
WorkSafe BC couldn’t comment specifically on Treleaven’s case due to privacy issues but the nuances of these claims can be complex.
As a permanent part time member of B.C. Ambulance, and one of Bowen’s two community paramedics, Treleaven is part of a union and she is challenging WorkSafe BC’s decision, but in the meantime, she has bills to pay, on top of the physical and emotional distress of being injured.
“I’m left with, you know, everything, the plug being pulled on my whole life,” she said.
“I had long term disability, which is less than half of what you get on WCB, which I’m lucky to have long term disability for sure, but it just basically takes care of my rent and that’s it,” she said.
As a single-income household, Treleaven’s long term disability is not enough to cover other costs such as food, phone and internet, car insurance and the like.
“I was an absolute mess for weeks [after the decision] actually, trying to figure out what the heck,” she said.
“I was scared. Literally frightened,” she said. “I’m almost 55 and I’ve cashed in all my RRSPs and everything. And this is going to be, I won’t make it.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she thought in those dark weeks. “I don’t have parents that can I can move in with or anything. I’m hooped.”
So to help ease the financial burden, islander Murray Atherton set up a GoFundMe campaign for Treleaven, which quickly drew in donations and comments of support for the paramedic’s recovery. The campaign currently has 75 donors and has raised $6,251.
“She’s done so much for the community and given up so much for the community, and knowing she was just at wits end…she was down to nothing,” said Atherton. “I had to do something,”
“The go fund me has taken away all that challenge,” he said.
“It took me and it’s still taking me a long time to switch roles from the person that helps people, even though it’s my job, to the person who’s receiving help,” Treleaven said.
But community members said that it was their turn to help and Treleaven is grateful.
“I realized that there’s no other way I could have gotten through this. There is no other way,” she said, tearing up.
People Treleaven didn’t even know donated (along with many friends, neighbours and people who knew her as a paramedic), allowing Treleaven the stability to focus on her recovery.
“I just look at it, that this is my job right now. My job is to heal and to do all the rehabilitation,” she said.
But with the use of only one arm, on heavy pain medication and needing to be careful to prevent reinjury, Treleaven can’t do basic tasks such as washing dishes, laundry, or even walking her dog.
Islanders have set up a Meal Train plus to help Treleaven with her household chores – from recycling, to dog walking, to dinners.
She says that the support she’s received so far has been incredible.
“I get tucked in by my neighbor every night,” Treleaven says with a laugh.
She can’t sleep in her own bed as the pressure is too much for her shoulder. For most of the last year she’s slept sitting in a recliner.
Treleaven is still facing a six month recovery period before she can get back to work but she’s looking forward to getting back to her passion.
“When [the injury] first happened, I’d hear the sirens and I’d cry. Like it’s supposed to be me, either behind the wheel or in the other seat.
“I can’t wait.”
Those who would like to contribute finacially can visit gofundme.com/help-our-community-paramedic-janis-treleaven. And for those who would like to help out with tasks or meals: mealtrain.com/trains/k7n1ld.