On Sunday March 3 2013 at 3:00 p.m., at a London Ontario Tim Hortons coffee shop just 3 minutes away from my office, this seventeen year old boy experienced a severe asthma attack. Here is a witness’ account of the incident, which she posted on the Tim Hortons Facebook page:
“Yesterday at 3:00 pm while in a Tim Horton on Horton Street (at Wellington St) in London Ontario, I watched a teenage boy going back and forth between the registers trying to get someone’s attention. After 5 or 6 employees walked past him one finally stopped and in a very snotty disgruntled voice said, “Do you want something?”
The 17 year old boy gasping for a breath and visibly in distress managed to say “phone, help!”. The employee responded, “The phone isn’t for customer use, there is a pay phone across the street outside the variety store.”
Myself witnessing this and had been closely watching the boy for about a minute asked if he needed help and if he needed me to call an ambulance. He managed a nod still struggling to breath. I called 911 and attempted several times to keep the boy calm and sitting down. While on the phone with the operator I learned the boy, now knowing his name is Brett, has severe asthma and was having an attack and his Ventolin and emergency inhalers weren’t working. As I looked around NO ONE was willing to help, not even the STAFF. They hadn’t moved and were idly standing by watching with looks of stupidity on their faces.
After getting off the phone with the 911 operator I ran outside to wait for the ambulance while watching through the window to make sure Brett stayed sitting, I was worried with him still struggling to breathe, would stand up and pass out. The ambulance arrived and I led them inside to Brett. While they attended to him I watched the employees. They were serving more customers now and had been the entire time I waited outside for the ambulance.
I was and still am utterly disgusted that no one stepped up to help me at all, even to stay with Brett as I waited for the ambulance. ESPECIALLY the employees of this particular Tim Hortons and that they continued on like nothing was happening. Brett was taken by ambulance to hospital and I left in shock at the complete disregard that all these people had for an emergency situation.
Attention needs to be brought to the fact that these employees, not even the Manager, came to the boy’s aid or to even assist me with helping him. The never even left from behind the counter or said one word. Nor did anyone run for a phone. Apparently emergency training and First Aid is lacking in the Tim Hortons establishments and something needs to be said and done!!”
This incident came to my attention the next day, and I was asked to do an interview with Devon Peacock of AM980 radio. Please click the Play button on the image below to listen to the interview or go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCn8uQ8f7nU&feature=share&list=UUUcZ_29wMmSrBrAJt_q6W8w
Tim Hortons’ Manager of PR and Social Media, Michelle Robichaud, stated to CBC News that staff are “encouraged to recognize signs of distress and call 911… In this particular situation this Team Member misjudged the circumstances.” According to the witness’ account, it wasn’t one team member, it was the entire Team.
In response to posts on the Tim Hortons’ Facebook page regarding this incident, Tim Hortons copied and pasted that: “The safety and well-being of our guests is always of utmost importance to us. We have investigated this concern and we appreciate that this gentleman received the care that he needed. We will use this as an opportunity to remind our Team Members of our emergency protocol.”
As outraged comments continued to be added to their page, Tim Hortons found a way to blame the victim. They began to copy and paste that “While this young man did ask to use a phone, he did not indicate that he was in distress [emphasis added]. Our Team Members are always encouraged to use their better judgment to identify any noticeable signs of distress and to call 911 when necessary. Our restaurants normally handle these unique situations correctly in the vast majority of cases. In this particular situation, this Team Member misjudged the circumstances. We appreciate that this young man received the care that he needed, and we will use this as an opportunity to remind our Team Members of our emergency protocol.”
Blaming the victim is outrageous: This poor boy could barely breath, and he’s being blamed for not indicating that he was in distress properly when he gasped “phone, help!“ Tim Hortons has stopped replying to Facebook posts on this topic. We cannot allow Tim Hortons to sweep this matter under the carpet, or to blame the victim for their Staff Members’ indifference. So that they realize the seriousness of this situation, I encourage you to voice your opinions directly on the Tim Hortons Facebook page, which you can visit here: https://www.facebook.com/TimHortons?ref=ts&fref=ts
This should serve as a wake up call to Tim Hortons and to any food service establishment, as 1 in 10 people has asthma, and 1 in 13 people has food allergies. A reaction can happen on their premises at any time, and for 25% of people requiring treatment for allergic reactions, the reaction is their first episode and they are completely unprepared. Tim Hortons’ Staff need to have specialized training to recognize an allergic or asthmatic emergency and respond immediately with first aid. This is specialized training focusing on allergy and asthma rescue, not the general training currently available from providers like St. John Ambulance. Allergy and asthma first aid training is available on epipentraining.com, and it is completed online.
I bet you dollars to donuts that the existing emergency protocol of which Tim Hortons’ Staff are to be reminded is to call 911. With food allergic reactions and severe asthma, calling 911 is not enough. Death can occur within minutes (that means before the ambulance has time to arrive), and you must provide first aid yourself until the patient reaches the emergency department.
Tim Hortons is very lucky that all they have on their hands right now is a little bad PR. The next time a customer has an allergic reaction or asthma attack in one of their stores, I guarantee that if this training has not been completed, a lawsuit will follow. Since 8% of the population has food allergies and 10% of the population has asthma, it’s not a question of if this will happen, is just a question of when it will happen. Surely it’s in Tim Hortons’ best interests to do everything in its power to be properly prepared for the next emergency.
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