Bella Coola paramedic retires but still plans to serve the community – Coast Mountain News


Jeffrey Snow got into his paramedic job by accident.

While in Vancouver, Snow worked with refugees from El Salvador, helping them access services and integrate.

Snow was then offered a job with a private ambulance service, Western Ambulance Company, as he had his Class 4 driver’s license.

“They were having trouble finding people to work on the ambulance at the time, surprise, surprise, it’s still happening today,” Snow joked.

“Well, I guess I’ll give it a try,” Snow recalled, more than 36 years later.

After returning to Bella Coola Valley, Snow was recruited to work for the British Columbia Ambulance Service and spent the next 30 years as a paramedic in the valley.

The small town had far fewer calls and Snow said that reflected the self-reliance of small town residents, joking someone with a severed arm would just find their way to the hospital.

Over the many years of service, Snow said he witnessed a lot of traumatic things, and although he contacted Critical Incident Stress (CIS) resource personnel, he felt that those with who he was dealing with at CIS couldn’t really identify.

“I found it really frustrating talking to these people,” Snow said.

For his retirement, he recently enjoyed a sacred ceremony in the Nuxalk Song House as part of the Hereditary Chiefs’ Festival.

The ceremony was to symbolically wash away the painful and traumatic experiences he had had as a result of his labor and included being brushed with burning branches while wearing a ceremonial blanket.

“I think that really helped me a lot,” Snow explained. “You can’t ignore things and there’s been so much in 36 years as a paramedic.”

As a retired man, Snow will continue to serve his community.

He plans to help engage young people and teach and update the mask dance ceremonies and songs he learned from elders as a child.

“I learned a lot about old and ancient ways of dancing and what it meant,” Snow explained.

As traditions have changed, Snow wants to find ways and seek guidance to make those traditions relevant to our times and to young people.

He remembers how his elders were able to transpose traditions into the present when he was young and he wants to help do the same for young people today.

“I hope it would be a springboard to help others,” Snow said.

He also credits his wife Louise March with great support in this work, as she and other women in the community helped make ceremonial blankets which he donated to the school.

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