Whenever we attend races, we usually, with good reason, focus on the riders and what is happening on the race track. However, what most don’t see is the tireless work of the people behind the scenes that mostly goes unnoticed. Two of these people are paramedics Luke and Jenny Keating from Eastern Ontario. During the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown SXTour events these two action sport loving individuals were there all day making sure that if there were any injuries, the riders received the best medical care possible. Whether it was Davey Fraser and Colton Facciotti in Quebec City or a few of the unfortunate amateur riders who had some bad crashes, this husband and wife team were on site helping to provide the important first response care to the riders. With race track paramedics being the people that riders know they need, but never want to have to deal with, we thought we’d reach out to Canada Sport Medic’s Jenny Keating for this week’s Yamaha Motor Canada MXP Chatter.
MXP: Hey Jenny, thanks for doing this. Let me start by asking where you and your family call home?
Jenny: Hey Chris, I just want to say what an honour it is for MXP to reach out to us. I love MXP’s content and really appreciate this opportunity. We live in Belleville, ON, however most of our weekends are spent in hotels across the province.
MXP: I think it’s cool that you and your husband get to travel around and do what you love together. It’s not too often that a husband and wife get to work together.
It’s funny you say that because it hasn’t always been this way. We actually met at the MMRS Madoc Nationals. I was running a promotion company and had my team out working the event and Lucas was there with his company (Canada Sport Medics) also working the event with his team. Turns out we had both been working the same event for 3 years and never crossed paths. 2014 was the year that the Ice Bucket Challenge was raising awareness for ALS, and Lucas recorded my team and I getting soaked by the water truck. I used that as my opportunity to get his number and asked him to send me the video. Once he sent the video we started talking and got to know each other, not knowing that we both owned our own businesses and both worked at the track almost every weekend. We realized we were basically living the same life (haha). It wasn’t long after that we started dating. I was so inspired by his drive and passion for his company. Lucas was restructuring the business at the time and making big changes. We were constantly bouncing ideas back and forth on how to make improvements that we decided to join forces and push it to the next level. Since then, we’ve been travelling around to different events, meeting all kinds of people and growing the business together. Every milestone we meet is so rewarding, and it’s amazing to be able to share that with one another.
MXP: Please tell us exactly what your role is when you’re at the track.
It varies, depending on the type of event we are working for. A lot of the time we are checking in on our team of medics at events across the Province. Often, we will have several events going on at the same time each weekend. Leading up to each weekend we both work on payroll, scheduling, things like that. When Lucas and I are working at the track as medics we usually have a minimum of three medics on our team. We split up responsibilities and Lucas will be the one on the track keeping an eye out for crashes, assessing riders, and handling all the patient care. My job is to make sure things run smoothly for our team so we can stay on point. I take charge of coordinating with responding paramedics, event and venue staff, making sure everyone knows their roles when we do have a patient that requires emergent transport to the hospital. One of our main priorities working at the track is to prevent any delays in the race schedule for the riders and the promoter without compromising the level of care provided to the injured riders. This has come with years of experience working at the track.
MXP: You mentioned to me in Hamilton that different provinces have their own way of dealing with certain injuries. Is this common?
Yes, pre-hospital emergency care is regulated on a Provincial level, meaning each province we work in, we have different standards we have to follow to a certain extent. When we were talking in Hamilton it was in reference to how we had some serious injuries in Quebec. We had a couple riders that had to go to the hospital by ambulance. In Quebec, the language barrier was the most difficult hurdle but we managed to work with it. In terms of how injuries are dealt with differently from province to province, the Davey Fraser injury is the one that stands out. He had some pretty severe trauma, and based on our assessment we found he had a head injury, a broken left clavicle, some fractured ribs and possibly some damage to his lungs. We were not concerned about any sort of neck injury with Davey so we did not put a collar on him to immobilize his neck. In Ontario, we are able to make that call. In Quebec, it seemed like they were either unable to make that decision or because they didn’t really do much assessment on him, they put a collar on him prior to transport. This is very common. It doesn’t really change anything for us but it’s interesting to see how other medics who don’t deal with what we do on a regular basis handle the situation.
MXP: Any type of language barrier definitely makes any crash even more scary for the riders. It must have been comforting for the riders in Quebec to have two individuals like you guys who spoke English. In what other sports does your team provide this service?
We have done snowmobile drag racing, ATV races, BMX competitions, a few rodeos and some corporate events but we have been focused specifically on motocross since day one. Lucas is a huge hockey fan though, so I know he would like to get into that some day.
MXP: Obviously, in a sport like motocross you see injuries of all types.
Yeah, it can be pretty intense sometimes. A typical day at the track we deal with broken collarbones, dislocated shoulders, broken wrists and concussions. These are probably the most common injuries we see almost every weekend. Then there are the broken backs, broken femurs, punctured lungs, and traumatic brain injuries. Even the odd amputated finger or foot peg ripping someone’s abdomen open. Ask our buddy Jack Wright about that next time you see him. That was intense.
MXP: At times you guys seem like you are super heroes as you’re capable of saving lives, but at the end of the day you are human beings. When you first reach a fallen rider does your adrenaline level instantly go up if it’s a serious injury?
Yes, the more serious the crash or the injury, it definitely gets my blood pumping. It doesn’t seem to faze Lucas as he’s been doing this for a long time now and is really good at what he does. He almost has this calming sense about him that I feed off of and I think the riders do as well, but I can definitely say I feel my adrenaline going every time I see that medic flag waving. The difference with doing our job in a sport like motocross, as you know, it’s a big family and we all grow to know each other from spending so much time together; sharing a couple drinks around the bonfire after a long race day, dinners at banquets, and of course when we meet someone for the first time after their family or friend was just injured. I think that plays a big factor because when we run out there for a downed rider, there’s a good chance we’ve gotten to know them and their whole family over the years, and it is really humbling knowing they have put their trust in us and our abilities.
MXP: As you mentioned above, you were in Quebec City when top riders Davey Fraser and Colton Facciotti both crashed and suffered injuries. With the Fraser crash you had to treat him while the race was still going on. Do you even notice the bikes flying by?
Definitely! Whenever there are extra people on the track it can make for a dangerous situation. Fortunately, when someone crashes, we are not the only ones out there. We do rely heavily on each other as a team but everyone plays a huge role including the refs, flaggers, and maintenance guys, and they all have to do their job so that we can do ours safely. It is something we are always mindful of but we have lots of people watching our backs.
MXP: In the USA we’ve seen programs like the Alpinestars Medical Team that go to every supercross and every national. Do you think we could have something like that up here?
This is something that’s come up quite a bit lately so I will do my best to explain it all. I’ll start by saying Canada Sport Medics is a team of certified Paramedics who have additional training specific to motocross. What sets us apart from other similar companies is that we only employ AEMCA Certified Paramedics. This means they have already completed two years of school including hundreds of hours of clinical training and passed a six-hour Provincial exam to work as a Paramedic in Ontario. The reason we hire people with this level of training as opposed to a two-day first aid course is because of the likelihood of having to deal with legitimate life-threatening injuries. Basically, our team is all paramedics who have been trained by us to be as effective and efficient as possible while working on a motocross track during a race. Motocross as you know is a fast paced, high impact, extreme sport. The need for higher medical education and training is clearly there.
We are currently working on several things to bring the best possible medical service to the track. We have talked to a lot of people about having something similar to the Alpinestars Mobile Medical Team up here in Canada for the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown Series and other national events. Of course, it would be awesome to have but the more we talk about it, the less realistic and less logical it seems. It would basically be like paying for health care when we already have free health care. It doesn’t really make sense. It’s like one of the first questions we are asked when talking with new clubs about hiring our company. “Do you have an ambulance?” The answer is no, and of course they always ask “Why?” Well, the simple answer is, it’s useless. The only ambulances that can transport patients to the hospital are the local Paramedic Service. When you call 911 and request an ambulance, those are the only people allowed to use an ambulance to transport people to the hospital. It can be deceiving to the public when a first aid company shows up with an ambulance. Most people assume they are paramedics, and if something goes wrong, they will take them to the hospital. Most of the time this is not the case. Usually it’s someone with a two-day first aid course who can’t use the ambulance for anything other than storing equipment. Even if it is the local Paramedic Service on site with an ambulance, they will only transport someone in critical condition but that leaves no medical care on site. And if they do this, the races will be held up until another unit shows up if they have one available. If their patient isn’t critical, they won’t transport, and they’ll do the same thing we do and call in another unit for transport anyways. And we won’t even get into how much that costs. So back to the question…yes, I think we can and will see something similar to what they have in the USA but on a different scale. I think with what we are working on for next year with regards to bringing our services to the next level to line up with the progression of the sport in Canada you will see something that is similar to what they have in the states but geared more towards the Canadian market and what makes the most sense up here.
MXP: That is very interesting and I wasn’t aware of all of that information. You two obviously have a passion for this sport. Where did this passion come from? Do you ride?
I’ve tried it but no, neither of us ride. I think the passion came after getting involved with the sport and the people that come with it. It’s always a great atmosphere at the track. I wouldn’t mind learning to ride one day, though.
MXP: They say that motocross is very addictive so you might be stuck in this sport for long time (laughs). What is life like away from the track?
We have a pretty busy life at home. We have two kids who keep us on our toes, one being two-years-old so I’m sure you remember what that’s like. It’s hard at times but we try our best to balance work and home life. I run another business from home and Luke works as a paramedic as well so we pretty much just spend every minute with our kids when we aren’t working.
MXP: Your job at the track is difficult and very important, but it must be satisfying also? Do you ever get people at the track coming up to you and thanking you?
This job is definitely not one you expect to be thanked for especially because the people you are dealing with typically have a lot going on at the time. It is really nice when people do reach out and go out of their way to thank us for helping them or being there for them because they really don’t have to. This job is very satisfying just being able to be there for people in their worst moments and knowing we’ve done everything we’ve been trained to do, and seeing them recover and get back to what they love doing most is really rewarding.
MXP: Well I know from being in this sport for so long that you and all of the hard-working paramedics are very much appreciated. So, will you be back next year?
We will definitely be back in 2019.
MXP: You mentioned earlier that you have big plans for next year. What can we expect?
We’ve got a few things in the works right now. It’s only been a couple weeks but this off season has been super busy already with getting things lined up for next year. We are now going to be working with amateur motocross and ATV clubs in different provinces starting in 2019. Having our company working coast to coast has been a goal since day one and we’re making moves!
One of the biggest things we’re bringing to the table in 2019 is a partnership with Complete Concussion Management Inc. Over the years we’ve noticed a serious gap in how head injuries are dealt with in this sport compared to other high impact sports. It is something they have in place when you ride south of the border, and we will now have our own protocols and standards in Canada that are second to none. This is something that will benefit the athletes, the teams, and the sport in general so we are very excited about it. There are a few other big changes happening but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out what else we have in store for next year!
MXP: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. If anyone would like to reach out to you about being a part of their events how would they get hold of you?
If anyone would like to contact myself or Lucas, they can check out our website (www.canadasportmedics.ca), our Instagram or Facebook (@canadasportmedics) or you can just call us at 226-973-7567.
Thank-you Chris for this opportunity. This was a really cool experience and we hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas!