Seventeen years ago, Jayden Arnold died in Surrey.
On a sunny summer day, the two-year-old fell into a pool in her family’s backyard. Bystanders pulled her out of the pool and immediately called 911, but she was clinically dead when paramedics arrived on scene.
Those paramedics were Roy Stanley and Derek Morris.
“I guess the biggest moment for me on the call was Roy was ventilating and I was doing CPR, and I felt for a pulse, and I remember thinking ‘that pulse doesn’t match what I’m doing,’” Morris said. “I said ‘Roy, I think there’s a pulse,’ I put my stethoscope on her chest and I could hear her heartbeat.”
Even though the paramedics were called to the scene of Jayden’s drowning 17 years ago, Morris said he remembered the call specifically.
“There’s not that many calls that we do where we have a successful outcome from a pediatric cardiac arrest,” Morris said.
“The biggest moment for me, actually, was the next day, when she crawled up on my lap and gave me a hug,” said Stanley. “That’s what I was saying to her, it’s been 17 years since my last hug.”
The two got their opportunity Friday morning in Penticton to meet the now-19-year-old woman who wouldn’t be here if not for their quick work.
“I’ve had many different experiences in my life. At five I went to elementary school, at 10 I got to go to Disneyland, 16, I got my … learner’s (licence), I got to go to England with my grandma and sister,” she told a group of reporters and paramedics gathered at Penticton’s ambulance station.
“At 17 I graduated, and then at 18 I was on my way down to Okanagan to start school, and I would have actually gotten to do any of that if it wasn’t for these two men.”
Linda Arnold, who drove down from Quesnel, said she got to see her granddaughter grow up thanks to a pair of men whose faces and names she never knew until Friday morning.
“These two men have been in my heart for 17 years, they have a place in my heart. And everyday when I think about the things I have in life that make me grateful, the fact that these two men came into my life, obviously, is a tremendous sense of gratitude, because I have this beautiful granddaughter who I may have had to visit her grave,” Linda said.
“These two men have been part of my thought processes every day for the last 17 years.”
Linda has been able to see Jayden go through elementary, middle and high schools, and throughout her whole education Linda said she has wanted to be a hair stylist. And in a week she will be able to see that dream fulfilled.
She pointed to “watching her now as an adult spread her wings and see the world” and a trip the two took to England a few years ago as some of the special moments she would have otherwise been denied.
She said it was “really special” to finally put a face to the two men who brought her granddaughter back to life all that time ago.
“I just wouldn’t miss this day for the world. It’s so special to be able to physically give them a hug and have names and faces that go with the skills and the memory,” she said.
That memory is a painful one for Linda.
“You anticipate that your life is going to change, and your family is going to have a tragedy that you will never get over. You will learn to live with it, but you’ll never get over it,” she said.
“The fact that she was actually responding (when Linda arrived), but we still didn’t know then whether she was going to actually have any kind of residual either in kidney failure or brain damage or neurological damage. You celebrate that she’s alive and you’ve still got her. You also anticipate that maybe there is going to be some challenges in the future.”
Linda said she is always cognizant of the fact that Jayden not only survived the ordeal, but she is, 17 years later, unscathed by her own death.
“She may have had brain damage, she may have had neurological damage, she may have had kidney damage. Because of their skills, and because they were learning new skills all the time, she has no damage,” she said, noting Jayden was tested yearly after the incident.
“She graduated in high school on the honour roll, so bottom line is those paramedics did a super, super job.”
Jayden said her parents and grandmother taught her all her life about respecting the work of paramedics, but she never expected to be able to meet the two who saved her life. But in January she moved to Penticton, where, coincidentally, Morris now works. Since the incident, Stanley also transferred to Kelowna.
It was a social media post that got the ball rolling for the reunion, with Morris immediately recognizing the story in the post as the one he’d lived himself, and one that had shaped his and Stanley’s lives.
“I think Jayden affected my life just as much as I affected hers,” Stanley said. “Her story has been told many times to many classrooms throughout the 17 years.”