In the midst of a March blizzard that shut down highways, stranded drivers and left snowdrifts several feet high throughout the province, a Manitoba father and his daughter made a harrowing, 45-kilometre journey for care — which included getting stuck on the highway for 90 minutes en route to a hospital.
Trent Hatch, 52, had a heart attack on March 7 at his home in southwestern Manitoba town of Minnedosa.
Skye Hatch, 20, says she was visiting at her dad's house, making dinner for him and her brother when she looked up and saw her dad unconscious with his head on the coffee table in front of him.
"I immediately knew something was wrong," she said. "I ran over, he was unresponsive right off the hop, so I tried to give him mouth-to-mouth and I realized that wasn't doing anything."
Her 17-year-old brother Brayden called 911, and the person on the phone walked Skye through laying Trent on the floor and beginning chest compressions. Skye says she remembers learning CPR in high school, but she's never had to do it in an emergency.
When EMS arrived, they couldn't even drive into the trailer park where Trent lives because of the heavy amount of snow already dumped by the blizzard. Fire paramedics ran their equipment in on foot as residents of the trailer park leaped into action to shovel a 10-foot-long path for the ambulance.
Once they made it to the hospital in Minnedosa, Skye says doctors told her they didn't have the equipment they needed to help Trent.
"They told me that he needed to be transferred to Brandon, which I thought was crazy because the roads were terrible," Skye said.
"But they got on the phone with the plows, and then we were going to follow them out after they had gone so far and cleared the road for us. And then we got into the ambulance and we drove."
'We couldn't see anything'
A snowplow from Minnedosa drove ahead of them on the roughly 45-kilometre trip to Brandon, clearing the way for the ambulance carrying Trent and Skye. Brayden had to stay behind — paramedics were concerned about having too many passengers because of the roads.
Across the province, highways were shutting down as wind and blowing snow formed drifts several feet high. As they drove, Skye said the paramedics in the ambulance comforted her and assured her Trent would be OK.
"We couldn't see anything. In between the blowing snow and the flashing lights, you couldn't see the lines on the highway, you couldn't see anything," she said. "You wouldn't have been able to see oncoming traffic."
They were nearing Forrest, Man., about 15 kilometres outside of Brandon, when the group hit a pair of snowdrifts, one after another. The second one completely stalled the ambulance.
"We lost all power, we lost the heat and everything," Skye said. "I was really worried about that, because I didn't know if the equipment was going to stop working, or what was going to happen."
They sat stranded for an hour and a half, waiting for a second snowplow and ambulance from Brandon — a wait Skye said was terrifying.
"I wouldn't really say I held it together," she said. "I had to try my hardest for my brother, [that] is the one thing I thought about the most was I have to stay strong for him to show him that there's still hope and we're going to get through this all."
'We've been best friends'
They finally got to the hospital around 11 p.m.
"By the time everybody got there, there was, I want to say, two ambulances, plus ours, and then there was the snowplows and the tow trucks and so many crew members," she said. "It took a lot of people to help us. It was crazy."
Trent was rushed into the trauma room and then the intensive care unit. Skye didn't see him again until the next day.
Trent has been awake for around three days now, Skye says. He can wiggle his toes, nod his head for "yes" and shake for "no," but he can't talk yet — he's still got breathing and feeding tubes.
Skye said her dad is frustrated to be in the hospital, but she knows he's proud of her and her brother.
"My dad is and has been a single parent for a long time — since I was in Grade 1, and I'm now graduated since 2014," she said.
"We've been best friends. He's always been there. I've just kind of gotten used to having him around for a long time. After my mom had left he had to stay at home with us kids because we were so young."
She says her dad always did everything he could to make sure she and her brother had a great childhood.
"He always made sure that we were happy and that we had food and clothes. We just had a great childhood," she said.
"He did everything he could to make sure that we got to go to the summer fair, we got to go to summer camp or stuff like that. He just did everything he could to make sure that we had a good life."