At the beginning of August I broke my wrist at work. Note to others: Avoid breaking your wrist in a remote community on a long weekend, even with a festival in town.

I was working in Barkerville, a heritage attraction in northern British Columbia, as the kitchen manager at a restaurant. The head chef asked me to pull a box of lamb out of the freezer, and as I did so, the 40-pound box slipped from my hands and knocked my wrist into the freezer wall. It hurt, but I didn’t realize it was broken at the time. It was the Saturday of a long weekend, with the Arts Wells festival in town, so we were busy and I just kept on working, while favouring my arm a bit.

The following day, Sunday, it didn’t take me long to realize that my wrist was not happy. It was swollen and I couldn’t use my hand for anything. But, well, it was a long weekend and we’d all agreed that nobody was getting time off during the festival, so I headed into work anyway and busied myself with one-handed tasks like putting away dishes, inventorying ingredients, and preparing prep lists. The other cooks who were working, Patrick and Ashley, took over the line and were handling everything beautifully – until Patrick dropped a knife and caught it in his left hand. (I’d slow clap, but I couldn’t at the time.)

At this point, things were not looking good for our long weekend staffing plan. I asked someone to look up the first aid number and call for first aid, but there was no information by the phone on how to contact first aid. Someone called the main phone number for the park, but it went to voicemail as I’m sure everyone was busy with the increased traffic from the festival. Eventually, we flagged down the horse & carriage driver, who used his radio to call security, who called first aid.

The first aid attendant who showed up put a band-aid on Patrick’s bleeding thumb, and it was immediately soaked through. So then she put two band-aids on it and told Patrick to visit her office later to get a fresh one if necessary. I asked her to look at my wrist while she was there, and she glanced at it and told me it was swollen (thank you Captain Obvious) and that I should ice it. And, back to work we went, ridiculously short handed (har har har).

Well, after an hour or two, Patrick’s hand was bleeding again, and my wrist was killing me. He went off to look for the first aid office, but couldn’t find it, so he had a smoke and came back to work. Eventually, we had to give up on the idea of working, and I gave the restaurant keys to Ashley and Jamie, the 15-year-old dishwasher, and told them to do their best to keep the food flowing until closing.

Patrick and I decided to look for first aid at the festival – I’d seen an ambulance on the main drag on Saturday night, so we headed back there to ask for help. Of course, there was no ambulance there on Sunday. We did a quick loop of the festival, but couldn’t find a first aid tent either. Luckily, I remembered that there was an ambulance station across from the staff housing in Wells, so we walked over to the ambulance station to ask for help. Of course, the station was locked, lights out, ambulance inside, and no sign on the door explaining what to do if you needed help. However, it was next door to the police station, so over there we went, looking for medical assistance.

Naturally, the police station was also locked up, lights out, no way to contact the officers. We headed over to the gift shop next door to that, to ask how on earth to summon first aid in the Wells/Barkerville area. The woman didn’t know, but she told us to head on over to the restaurant next door to see if the owner, who had been there for decades, knew how to get first aid. He dialed the phone number for the festival organizers, but of course we got an answering machine.

At this point, we were getting pretty frustrated, but decided to head up to the festival one more time to find first aid. We checked out the festival organizers, but they were closed, but we found the volunteer booth and asked them about first aid. Of course, they didn’t know anything about that, and didn’t have a phone to call anyone to ask. They suggested dropping by the pub to see if anyone at the pub knew what to do. So, Patrick and I walked back toward the pub, when at long last, we spotted a police car driving by. We flagged the cops down to ask for medical attention.

I explained that we’d hurt ourselves, and the first officer asked, “What happened, did you fall down drunk?” Grr. Not impressed! And then he proceeded to tell us that they weren’t trained in first aid and couldn’t do anything for us. I expressed my disbelief that he couldn’t even bandage a small wound, considering small-town cops must surely be first on the scene to a number of life-threatening situations. He found a first aid kit in his trunk and handed Patrick two band-aids. The best he could offer me was to call on his radio to Quesnel, an hour away, to ask an ambulance to be sent to pick me up and take me to hospital. I declined.

At this point, Patrick and I gave up on first aid, and headed back to his place, where Caleb, the head chef at the restaurant, was waiting to see how we’d fared. I had had about enough of the run-around, and burst into tears. (Go me! Holding up under pressure!) Caleb got on the phone to a friend of his whose mother was an off-duty paramedic, and after four or five phone calls all over town, managed to track her down. Thirty minutes later, Patrick’s hand was being properly bandaged. When she finally got to look at my wrist, she declared it absolutely broken, and thankfully my friend Shanna arrived and offered to drive me to hospital in Quesnel.

By the time I was treated for my injury, it was midnight on the day after it happened (although at least 18 hours of that delay was my fault). However, I must say that WorkSafe BC, the Worker’s Compensation board, has been wonderful in making sure I was taken care of financially. I have had no complaints about my care since getting past the first aid stage, and a week later, when Patrick slipped and knocked himself out in the kitchen at work, we didn’t bother with Barkerville/Wells first aid, and called 911 right off the bat. Lesson learned!

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