'I felt his little hands and they went cold': Sask. mom left with questions after toddler's sudden death
ONE ARROW FIRST NATION -- A mother plagued by sleepless nights following the sudden death of her two-year-old while he was being taken by ambulance from Rosthern to Saskatoon says she’s left with nothing but questions about what happened — and no one is providing answers.
“I’m still dealing with the loss of my son,” says Sara Almightyvoice in her home community of One Arrow First Nation, about 94 kilometres north of Saskatoon.
“But now I’m starting to think (about) why this happened. I don’t even want to go to the hospital because I get flashbacks.”
On the evening of June 11, Almightyvoice said her two-year-old son Byron Gardypie Junior, who suffered from chronic lung disease, asthma and had Down syndrome, was experiencing a fever and vomiting.
The family rushed to Rosthern Hospital where she said they waited for nearly two hours before Byron was admitted.
Once in a room, Almightyvoice says doctors couldn’t figure out what was happening to her son.
“I noticed he was turning blue a bit and we were there for almost two hours and he started turning blue a little bit and I asked if they could give him oxygen,” she says.
“I felt his little hands and they went cold and then as that is going on they gave him a big syringe of Motrin.”
Sara Almightyvoice and her partner Byron Gardypie Sr. (Francois Biber/CTV Saskatoon)
She says eventually the attending physician in Rosthern told her they needed to take her son to Jim Pattinson Children’s Hospital (JPCH) in Saskatoon. An ambulance picked up Byron and headed to Saskatoon.
At the time Almightyvoice didn’t know it was the last time she would see her son alive.
“He was in the ambulance he looked at me and said 'mom' but he never says 'mom.'"
Once the ambulance took Byron away, Almightyvoice said she quickly headed home to change her clothes before making the trip to Saskatoon.
She says she didn't even have a chance to head back out the door before a social worker from Saskatoon called and told her that her son had died.
It was a few hours before sunrise on June 12 when Almightyvoice received the news.
“All they said is his heart stopped, that’s all they said they didn't say anything else,” Almightyvoice recalls.
“They said as soon as they got out of Rosthern that’s when it happened, he coded, they did CPR all the way to Saskatoon.”
When she arrived at JPCH, Almightyvoice says doctors said Byron died on the way to Saskatoon and that paramedics did everything they could to save her son.
However, Almightyvoice said no one ever explained why her son’s heart stopped.
“I want to know how come my son was taken from me? So instantly? What happened, can you tell me the truth about that?”
Almightyvoice says a doctor at JPCH only told her an autopsy was complete and the coroner was satisfied with the results.
Pediatric team wasn't dispatched
Almightyvoice says over the course of Byron's life, she became familiar with the Saskatchewan Pediatric transport team.
According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), the transport team is the only pediatric specialized transport service for the province, and it has evolved over its 30 years.
“The team accompanies the ground ambulance or air medevac crews to the patient. This highly specialized team stabilizes the patient and manages care until that patient is handed over to other professionals at the hospital,” the SHA said in an email.
“This type of interventive medicine has been shown to reduce unplanned critical events (cardiac arrest, loss of critical airway or IV access, and unrecognized, evolving shock) in pediatric patients substantially.”
Almighty Voice said the transport team has picked up her son from Rosthern a few times in the past, and once the team even travelled to One Arrow to care for her son. But on June 11, she said she did not see them.
“The pediatric team, when they come, they’re on it, focused on him but this ambulance that came that night they weren’t really focusing on him. It wasn’t right,” she said.
When asked why the specialized pediatric transport team was not dispatched to this call in the late hours of June 11 and early morning of June 12, the SHA said out of respect for privacy it cannot comment on the matter, however, a spokesperson said the SHA is aware of and currently reviewing the situation.
According to the SHA the pediatric transport team responded to 2,410 from April 2015 to 2020 and since 1996, the team has had no deaths or "unplanned events" during transport.
No follow-up, questions linger
The day after she lost her son, Almightyvoice says Byron's doctor phoned her and asked her how her son was.
“She didn’t even know what happened,” Almightyvoice said.
After that phone call, Almightyvoice says she hasn’t heard from anyone from the SHA or JPCH about what happened to her son. The saddest part, Almightyvoice says, is when people ask her what happened to her boy. She doesn’t have answers for them.
“I don’t know anything, people ask me and I don’t know what happened all I know is that his heart stopped, that’s all I know,” she says.
“I know my son is in a better place today. He suffered a lot his whole life. Two days before this happened he was playing like his usual self.”