BGH Doctor Credited With Providing Translation Services During 401 Tourist Bus Crash

A Brockville doctor is being credited with providing translation services across eastern Ontario for the victims of last week’s tourist bus crash on the Highway 401.

Hospitalist Dr. Helen Hsu, with the Brockville General Hospital, says she was making notes on patients when she overheard other doctors discussing what sounded like a serious collision on the highway on June 4. Then they got the call that it was a Code Orange, which is a mass casualty situation.

When five of the most severely injured first arrived, it wasn't clear that they were an entire bus filled with Chinese tourists.

Hsu says she was preparing to treat people for head and neurological injuries when she got a request for a patient who was conscious.

"They looked at me and they said do you speak Mandarin and I was like 'yeah'."

After the second patient came in, that’s when Hsu says she started to piece things together.

"I got grabbed by another (emergency) physician who said 'I'm trying to communicate with this lady who's starting to lose consciousness but I don't know how to communicate with her in her language', and I went over to talk to her in Mandarin and it sort of became clear."

Despite the fact that it was the end of her work day, Hsu spent the next nine hours driving with a volunteer from Victims Services, providing translation for victims spread out across the region. She says the route took her from Brockville to Ottawa, then down to Kingston, returning to the BGH around 4am the next day.

She had the difficult task of talking and connecting husbands and wives, and helping doctors update patients on their loved ones conditions.

She says it was, of course, a difficult situation for the victims and their families.

"It wasn't a mystery to them that their loved ones were very ill," says Hsu. "The people had very severe injuries that were very visible, they knew it was bad. It's a very sad situation."

In all, three victims lost their lives in the day's following Monday's crash.




Hsu says she's still in awe of the work her fellow team members did in the hours following the crash.

"Every (emergency) doctor I knew were standing there waiting. The ICU attending were there, a lot of people I knew were there waiting to help," she says. "It was surreal, but at the same time I was so impressed by all my colleagues, doctors and nurses. I'm sure we were all terrified inside, I was terrified, but on the outside we all held it together, and got through what we needed to do."

Hsu also thanks her volunteer driver Steve from Victims Services, as well as her fellow doctors who took her patients the next day, as Hsu continued her work to help connect the victims with the Chinese Embassy.

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