Early fall on a Saskatchewan farm is a lot of work, since getting the grain off the field and into the bins before the weather turns is of utmost importance. So, for two young siblings with plenty of energy, finding a safe place to play while their dad unloaded grain was not only natural, it was something they had done many times before.
For Breanna Booy and her family, that all changed in September of 2013.
The Booy family lives about 65 km north of North Battleford where husband and wife, Darcy and Angela, are kept busy operating their farm. As that September drew to a close, the harvest season was proceeding at its usual rapid pace.
Darcy and two of their daughters – Breanna, then six, and Shelby, then four – headed to unload grain at their neighbour’s yard, a task understandably unable to capture the attention of the two young girls. They went off to play on an older swingset on the property, where they laughed and giggled as they swung back and forth. What they didn’t know is that one of the support posts holding up the heavy 6×6 crossbeam was broken – and in one horrifying instant, the structure collapsed and the beam struck Breanna in the head, fracturing her skull.
What followed was an evening of emergency calls, travel, and unimaginable stress. Shelby alerted their father, who called 911 immediately; a first responder arrived, and then an ambulance team from North Battleford. Recognizing the severity of the injury, the paramedics called STARS immediately and met the STARS helicopter at the North Battleford airport. The STARS crew assured Darcy and Angela that Breanna was in the best care possible. The crew told them to drive the next 130 km safely and they would meet them at the hospital in Saskatoon.
The Booys arrived to Saskatoon just in time to beat the traffic rush of a concert crowd coming out of SaskTel Centre, and they made their way toward Royal University Hospital. Upon arrival, Darcy and Angela saw Breanna going in the doors to the emergency room. With the doctors helping Breanna, Darcy and Angela recognized a familiar face at the admitting desk: Daniel Kobylak, a STARS flight paramedic and member of Breanna’s STARS flight crew, whom they had met in North Battleford.
“Daniel was there at the hospital when we went to go fill out the paperwork,” Breanna’s mother Angela recalls. “He was reassuring and helpful – both he and Jenny [Breanna’s flight nurse] came back to the hospital that night to check on us. We were so grateful for their expertise and their help with Breanna, and we told them they were welcome to come back and check on us any time. I think Daniel was back at least twice more during her stay.” That stay, as it turned out, would last 10 days before Breanna emerged from a coma, eventually spending another eight days in acute care. “They are just genuinely caring and loving people.”
Despite the long journey from the site of the accident to the hospital, Breanna had had the benefit of some of the province’s best medical crews at her side. That level of care, attention, and support laid the foundation for a full recovery – an outcome that is often impossible with severe head injuries. Looking back, Angela agrees that the quality of care played a major role in the years that followed. “Today, she is 100%. You’d never know the injuries she’s had.” Breanna is even playing AA U15 hockey, a sport that initially caused some worry: “In a follow-up appointment I had to ask the doctor, I don’t know how many times, ‘Are you sure she can play?’, because it’s all she wants to do,” Angela laughs. “She’s doing really well.”
Almost ten years have gone by since that day, and in that time, the family has reached out to STARS – and especially Daniel and the rest of the flight crew – to express their gratitude. But it wasn’t easy. For Breanna, it meant the focus would be solely on her, and she wasn’t ready for the attention.
“For me, it was a way of saying thanks,” Angela says. “Daniel went above and beyond his duties to comfort us and check in on us. We took cards and a gift…it was emotional. Breanna didn’t really want to go. I don’t think she wanted to remember it or be the center of attention– quite honestly, I didn’t want to remember it either.” But as time went on, they returned several more times, eventually taking part in a photo and video shoot.
Part of what drives this family to highlight the organization is knowing not just how important it is to their own family, but to the others around them. “We’ve had four people within a few miles of us fly with STARS. In our area – a small town, far enough from help – it’s definitely reassuring that we can have medical help on our doorstep, fast.”
Angela sums it all up in a simple statement: “They changed our lives. They saved hers.”