Life in Saskatchewan is often a choice: the space and skies of a home in the heartland, or the fast access to the amenities and services of the cities. It’s rare to have both in the same backyard, and for families who live far from urban areas – like the Hendry family, outside of Nokomis – the trade-off is part of their daily routine. However, in 2014, that routine was interrupted by an accident, and everything changed with a visit from the STARS air ambulance.
September 1, 2014 had dawned clear and blue, like many late summer days in Saskatchewan. 10-year-old Caiden Hendry, his brother Maddox, and their father Tim decided to take advantage of the nice weather – and the last day of the Labour Day long weekend – to head out to a nearby gravel pit and do some dirt biking. Not long into the ride, Caiden crested a hill too fast and went airborne; he fell to the ground, where the heavy bike landed on top of him.
“At first he kept trying to get up, and kept collapsing. We thought his neck or back could be broken,” his mom Kalie recalls. Not being present at the scene, she was given the initial information over the phone as she rushed from her parents’ house to meet them. Luckily, Caiden avoided those particular injuries, but had another just as bad: he had severely broken his leg and could not walk or stand. Being far away from help, Tim had to make a tough decision.
“Dad took me to the Nokomis Health Centre,” Caiden explains – a small building with such a small staff that there was no doctor, only a nurse who helped administer fluids to prevent shock. Beyond that, it was in the middle of renovations and there were no available beds, either; Caiden lay on the floor for over an hour, waiting for more help to arrive.
Kalie called 911 and first responders were sent with additional supplies, but it was still not enough. “It was more than they could handle,” she says. “After a couple hours, he started going into shock.” The first responders had called in STARS upon their arrival, and finally – 2.5 hours after the accident – Caiden and Kalie were in the helicopter, on the way to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. “They instantly knew what to do. It was instant relief.”
After reaching the hospital, Caiden’s broken leg was set and the immediate danger was over. As recovery began, the crew of STARS made sure that the whole family was taken care of and put at ease. Over the months that followed, this closeness naturally morphed into more involvement with the organization, resulting in Caiden becoming a well-known face among STARS staff in Saskatoon.
“I remember Darcy – he was my flight nurse, a nice guy. He was always making sure I’m okay, or checking in with me,” Caiden says about the aftermath of the accident. Kalie is quick to agree. “They treated him really well and they were really personable – he felt like a person, and not just a story to sell tickets. They made him, and me, feel special.” And now, more than seven years later, the bond that formed between Caiden, his family, and the staff has continued to grow; he has taken part in many fundraisers and other initiatives since then.
“In the first few years, they invited me to a STARS VIP meet and to do photo shoots. I even did one commercial for the STARS home lottery,” Caiden says. He then adds with a laugh, “I remember going for an interview on TV, and blanking out on the one question she asked me. I gave an answer that wasn’t so good.” He was also featured on a STARS calendar for the month of January (eliciting some raised eyebrows from the postal worker, who delivered Kalie a plain envelope marked with “MR. JANUARY” in big letters).
His easygoing humour and assured self-confidence – evident in the way he speaks and even sits – are, themselves, partially due to the influence from STARS. Kalie explains:
In a way that would have been impossible to foresee, one of the worst days of Caiden’s life has had a beneficial effect on the rest of it. From the struggles with physiotherapy and learning the importance of perseverance (“It was frustrating to work my way back to where I was before,” Caiden says, before following up with, “I participate in basically any sport I can – my leg is perfectly fine,”) to becoming a spokesperson for STARS, his life and personality have been impacted, but seemingly always for the better.
Kalie, who has watched Caiden grow through all of this, feels the same – and is quick to praise STARS and its people for all they do. “STARS has been out here quite a bit,” she says, referring to the area around Nokomis. “Without them, some of the positive outcomes would not have been so positive. It makes me feel like I can experience the same service and emergency care that people in the city have – it’s a lifesaving service and it just makes me feel comforted.”
She doesn’t need many words to express her gratitude. “We were very lucky that day. We had STARS, and the minute they walked in, they knew what to do.”