USJE members’ teamwork saves colleague during stroke

Here is a dramatic story of how quick thinking and teamwork saved a colleague. It was sent to us by USJE members Justina Ziemer and Darcie Friesen (Local 20086), who are case management assistants at CSC Pacific Institution in Abbotsford, BC, and Ken Bartley (Local 2C086), a community parole officer in Nanaimo. The article was written by Justina.

We have changed the driver’s name to Roger to protect their anonymity.

Darcie and I are case management assistants (CMA) for the temporary detention unit (TDU) at Pacific Institution in the BC Lower Mainland. One of our main roles is release planning, which involves the transportation of our releases back to the community. Sometimes I am asked to arrange contracted accompaniment drivers to pick up and drop off offenders for the community parole offices.

On a Wednesday in February, Roger, a contract driver and former USJE member, was scheduled to meet a release from the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre at the mainland Tsawwassen Ferry terminal and bring him to Abbotsford. There was a delay, so Nanaimo community parole officer Ken Bartley called Roger. This fortunate call was to start the whole chain of events.

After calling Roger, Ken emailed me asking if Roger had a stutter as he couldn’t communicate with him and felt bad. That didn’t sound like Roger at all, so my initial reaction was – did I give out the wrong phone number? But I double-checked and it was correct. So, I called him.

As soon as Roger answered, I could tell something wasn’t right. I tried asking him questions to get him talking so I could hear if he was okay, but he had a hard time speaking and could only give yes or no answers. Then, he accidently hung up on me. I immediately looked at Darcie and asked if she could listen in on the next call because of his speech and see what her thoughts were.

We called him on speaker, and Darcie immediately recognized it as a possibly stroke, which she knew from her experiences with family and friends.

I asked Roger a couple of questions to figure out if he was in his vehicle and in a possible accident, or at home. He answered “yep” when we asked if he was at home, so I called Dinah Firkus, my manager at the Chilliwack Community Correctional Centre, to try to track down his address. In the meantime, Ken called back as he was concerned too that it might be a stroke.

Knowing that we didn’t have much time – only minutes – I had Darcie call TDU Parole Officer Karen Jorgensen, who knows Roger, to see if she knew any family or friends who would be able to give us his address. I stayed on the phone with Roger to see if I could get any more answers and to reassure him that we were getting help.

Then followed more phone calls and swift actions by Karen and several other people – Pacific Warden Mark Noon-Ward, Matsqui Warden’s Assistant Deanna MacDonald, and Acting Regional Deputy Commissioner Barb Van Vugt and Acting District Director Lisa Bayne, who were both acting in these positions at the time. We were lucky that Mark was home with spouse Karen, and was able to help us track down family and friends, anyone who would know Roger’s home address.

Luckily Google had an address for us. We confirmed it and immediately called 911. Darcie gave the 911 operator the brief information we had about Roger. They took all the information and assured us they were on their way to his residence. All we could do then was wait and hope everything would be OK.

Later, TDU Parole Office Supervisor Hardeep Jaswal called to say Roger had been taken to the Chilliwack General Hospital and Mark would stop by after work to check on him. I then got another phone call in the early evening to let me know that Roger was conscious and seemed to be fine. Because of everyone’s quick efforts, Roger prognosis was good.

That was a huge relief to me! I have been working with Roger since I started at the TDU in 2018. It’s been mostly phone calls and emails, but I’ve gotten to know him – he is always telling me how much of a good job I am doing. He always makes me smile and feel good about my work. I was happy to hear he was doing well.

I am also happy for the amazing team effort that meant Roger was able to get to the hospital in time. And if it wasn’t for Ken letting me know what was going on, the whole series of events leading to Roger getting to the hospital wouldn’t have happened.

I believe the universe was looking out for Roger that day. I hope he has a speedy recovery. I am glad to be part of this Correctional Service Canada family and am thankful for all the kind words we received after the event.

Recognizing the signs of a stroke quickly and getting immediate medical attention can save a life. Learn the simple FAST technique, recommended by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

Thanks to Justina, Darcie and Ken for sharing their workplace story. If you are a USJE member and have a workplace story to share, please sent it to