Catherine Mastine remembers expecting to walk into festivities on the night she and a few colleagues headed into Vancouver after watching the Stanley Cup final at a home in False Creek.
It didn’t take long for reality to hit the South Surrey resident – for Mastine to realize that what was unfolding on the city’s downtown streets that June 15, 2011 was anything but festive.
“It did get pretty frightening,” Mastine said Wednesday, recalling the chaos that erupted following the Canucks’ loss to the Boston Bruins.
“Things turned quite sour. There were people running everywhere.”
Mastine, who is a licensed practical nurse at Peace Arch Hospital, is among eight locals – seven of whom are hospital employees – who are to receive the Vancouver Police Department’s highest civilian bravery award next week for their efforts to help those injured during the riots that night.
Along with clinical nurse educator Jennifer McDuff, Anna Csepregi (registered nurse), Kam Dhami (patient care co-ordinator), Lisa Snider (geriatric emergency nurse), Tina Stewart (registered nurse), Dr. Lourens Perold and Chris Richardson, Mastine will receive the Chief Constable Award of Merit at a ceremony Jan. 9 at the Roundhouse Community Centre.
Mastine, 49, said the group was heading into the downtown core to meet their ride home when they discovered the trouble. They were trying to find their way out – away from tear gas that was being unleashed on rioters along Granville Street – when they came across the first of three seriously injured people, a man with an obvious head injury.
“He was in the middle of the street, down and unconscious… breathing but unresponsive,” she said. “We couldn’t just walk by.”
The second victim was injured in a knife fight that unfolded around the corner; McDuff, 44, saw the third drop to the ground after being hit in the head with a bottle. He suffered a significant laceration, she said.
The colleagues worked quickly to assess and triage the injured, fending off crowds of people who were pushing their way through – many who were simply trying to get photos of the wounded.
The team worked without their usual tools, stemming blood flows with Canucks towels, and propping one patient’s head with a purse. Perold stuck his ungloved hand into the stabbing victim’s wounded abdomen to determine the extent of the knife’s damage.
Both Mastine and McDuff said, faced with the same situation, they would do again in a heartbeat.
“It wasn’t fun, but it was exciting,” said McDuff, who grew up in Comox. “We were doing something good, when there was so much bad going on.”
“I guess in that situation, you’re not really thinking of yourself,” Mastine said. “You don’t walk away from things like that.”
McDuff said one of the victims sent a thank-you letter to the group at Peace Arch Hospital, a gesture described as “so sweet.”
In a statement issued Wednesday, Fraser Health officials commended the actions as “heroism.”
“The team was exposed to a significant amount of violence while helping these critically injured people. They were pelted with garbage, violently pushed by the public and exposed to tear gas while trying to assist the injured people.
“This team… went above and beyond in the call of duty putting their own lives at risk to help the public.”