Lytton-area woman calls for more healthcare infrastructure after husband suffers heart attack

Call for healthcare in Lytton

A Lytton woman is calling on the province to re-establish more healthcare infrastructure in the village after she had to drive her husband — who suffered a heart attack — to Lillooet for emergency care.

Tricia Thorpe told Castanet Kamloops while some people are still displaced after a wildfire razed the Lytton area last year, many residents remain — and they need increased healthcare services.

“We have lost all of our infrastructure, all our essential services, but most of the people are still in the area, and they still need those services,” Thorpe said.

“if you want lab work done — and there's people here that need lab work done every week or every two weeks — that's a major drive, and they’re elderly.”

Thorpe said she wrote a letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix advocating for more healthcare infrastructure to be re-established in Lytton after her husband had a heart attack on Friday, April 22.

In the letter, Thorpe said her neighbour waited over an hour for an ambulance to arrive, so she called the Lillooet hospital and 911 to let them know they were coming in her car via Highway 12, and that they would meet the ambulance en route.

Thorpe said she drove all the way to Lillooet's emergency department, where her husband suffered another heart attack. However, healthcare workers were able to administer a “clot-busting drug.”

“If we had waited for the ambulance he would not have made it. The paramedics met us in emergency and said I did the right thing,” Thorpe’s letter said.

Thorpe said her husband ended up in the ICU at Vernon Jubilee Hospital after being transported via ambulance along with a cardiac nurse.

Thorpe told Castanet before the wildfire, Lytton had its own ambulance and health centre that was equipped to handle the community's basic healthcare needs.

“We had an emergency centre, we had that super clot-busting drug on site. I could have run him down there, and that would have been a really simple thing,” Thorpe said.

“We had ambulance service here. The ambulance comes from Lillooet right now. They have set up a doctor's clinic now, but it's a doctor's clinic only.”

Thorpe said her husband is now recovering, but she said no one should have to experience driving a rural highway to receive medical help while their spouse talks about “the black fog encroaching.”

“I had no other choice, I had to stay calm. When he was talking about the darkness, I just said, ‘Well, you just kind of push that to the side, please. Push it away.’ And I was trying to keep really, really calm,” she said.

In her letter to Dix, Thorpe says she understands healthcare is strained, but Lytton residents have “suffered enough stress and trauma already.”

“Please help the community of Lytton regain the services they once had and avoid another tragedy,” the letter said.

Thorpe said she has yet to hear back from the health minister’s office.

Castanet Kamloops asked the ministry and Interior Health for comment but did not hear back by deadline.

Thorpe — who lives just outside Village of Lytton boundaries in an area under Thompson-Nicola Regional District jurisdiction — appeared before the TNRD board of directors during a May 5 meeting, asking directors to advocate for more healthcare services on Lytton’s behalf.

Thorpe said she hasn’t seen much advocacy coming from the TNRD for residents since the wildfire.

“I want them to advocate with the village and Lytton First Nation, because the more voices out there, the louder it is — the more likely we are to be heard,” Thorpe said.

Castanet Kamloops also reached out to Steven Rice, director for Electoral Area I, and Jan Polderman, Lytton Mayor and TNRD director for comment, but did not receive a response from either representative by deadline.

In the May 5 electoral meeting, board chair Ken Gillis told Thorpe the board was taking her comments under consideration.

“You’re touching on a lot of areas that are areas of provincial jurisdiction, and I know there has been a considerable amount of frustration expressed in terms of the response that Lytton is getting from various provincial agencies,” Gillis said.

"I’m not saying that’s necessarily the reason Lytton is lacking in emergency services right now, but I’m not altogether sure that within the TNRD we have the capacity or even the authority to address the questions you’ve raised, but they will be taken under consideration.”

Rice also responded to Thorpe’s comments. He apologized for not attending the Lytton resiliency centre in person, but said he hasn’t “been to a lot of places right now, as we’ve been displaced for a long time.”

Rice lives in Spences Bridge, which was threatened by summer wildfires and devastated by November’s floods.

“I will say I’ve been pretty vocal, pretty much engaged with the ministry. I’ve written many, many emails, sent them off, not got a response back. I’ve been a big advocate for Lytton,” Rice said.

Thorpe said residents in the Lytton area are “terrified” that another emergency might happen requiring care that may be a significant distance away.

“We've got a lot of elderly people still," she said. "Just because Lytton’s downtown core isn't there doesn’t mean the residents are gone.”

More Kamloops News