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How a quick-thinking doctor with a drill saved a man's lifeDr. Paul Patey knows a young man could lose his life unless he does something.

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Taylor Jackson said he owes his life to Dr. Paul Patey

Jeremy Eaton · CBC(Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Bombing down a dirt road hill, he isn't sure what happened, but his helmet-less head went over the handlebars  and smashed into a rock.   

"Everything just happened so quick," Jackson recalled. "I fractured my skull and didn't really know it."

Somehow Jackson pulled himself from the ground and, despite tremendous pain, managed to pedal to his aunt's house before his grandmother rushed him to the Whitbourne medical clinic. 

"As soon as I got to my nan's house everything went black for me. I can't remember much. I was in and out of consciousness," Jackson said.

"I woke up two weeks later to find out I had brain surgery and a plate inside of my head."

On July 16, 2010, Dr. Paul Patey was just a few hours into his 24-hour locum shift at the William H. Newhook Community Health Centre.

Patey, who had officially retired a few years earlier, kept busy doing the work he loved — filling in as a family doctor in rural hospitals. 

WATCH | Dr. Paul Patey and Taylor Jackson talk about the fateful moment where a life was saved in a speeding ambulance: 

How a quick-thinking doctor used a drill to save a life

9 hours agoDuration 5:42CBC reporter Jeremy Eaton tells the story of Taylor Jackson and Dr. Paul Patey, and how Jackson's life was saved in a speeding ambulance

It's something he has done all over Newfoundland, but with Whitbourne about an hour's drive from his St. John's home, it was a favourite spot of his to fill in as locum.

A graduate of McGill medical school in the late '60s, Patey had years of rural medical practice under his stethoscope along with more than 25 years at the Health Sciences Centre and Memorial University's medical school. To keep busy he offered to fill in around the province in places that needed a short-stint doctor. 

When Jackson's grandmother dropped him off at the hospital that July day, he knew right away the severity of the situation. 

"I said to the nurse, 'We got a catastrophe here,'" Patey said.

At that point Jackson was still conscious, but he couldn't speak. When asked to by the doctor, he wasn't able to wiggle his toes or his fingers on one side of his body. 

Patey said the young man needed a CAT scan and a team of doctors not available at the health centre in Whitbourne. 

With an ambulance en route from nearby Smith's Ambulance Services, Patey made sure he had everything needed for the hour-long ride to the Janeway children's hospital in St. John's. 

Wear your helmet for the love of living, not for the fear of dying- Dr. Paul Patey

He grabbed a scalpel from the medical centre and then asked a staff member to grab a drill and some bits — if things went south with Jackson, he knew, the 12-volt power drill could be the only thing aboard the ambulance to save his life.

Patey explained that the brain needs to be in a protected space — the skull — but when there is damage to the skull and it fills with blood there isn't much room left over. 

"It squats the brain," said Patey. "If you squat the brain enough, you kill it."

The first thing he did was make sure the drill worked. 

"There's no point in getting down the road and finding a dead battery," he said.

Thanks to Patey, Jackson was able to spend more time with his family.Helmets will be mandatory for all offroad vehicles in N.L. under proposed new rules


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