Mom calls 9-1-1 after son suffers seizure — then gets put on hold

A West Island mother was appalled after calling 9-1-1 one day last week after he son suffered a seizure — and was then put on hold for as long as 15 minutes.

Sabrina Stoute went to a Jean Coutu store last Thursday to pick up some prescription medication for her 19-year-old son Cameron, who is prone to seizures. Doctors haven't yet figured out why.

While at the drugstore, he suddenly began convulsing on the floor, while Stoute, a registered nurse, had the pharmacist call 9-1-1.

Stoute wasn't expecting what she was told next.

"He looks over to me and says, 'I'm on hold,'" Stoute told CJAD 800's Aaron Rand. "And I said, 'are you kidding me?' And he said, 'I'm on hold, I'm on hold.'"

Stoute says it wasn't until about 15 minutes later that she was able to talk to someone on the other end of the line, another 10 minutes before first responders were able to tend to her son, and another 10 minutes before Cameron was finally taken to the hospital.

"9-1-1 is for emergencies, life-threatening situations. I'm in one, with my son seizing on the floor, and I can't even speak to someone to let them know the urgency of the situation." —Sabrina Stoute

As she waited on the line, a voice kept telling her to "please hold".

"I was thinking, 'thank God I'm a nurse, number one," Stoute said. "And...I'm just livid. 9-1-1 is for emergencies, life-threatening situations. I'm in one, with my son seizing on the floor, and I can't even speak to someone to let them know the urgency of the situation."

Stoute says Cameron had three or four separate seizures in the pharmacy while waiting for emergency medical personnel. 

Since that happened, she says she hadn't heard an apology of any kind from Urgences Santé, and she says she's spoken to other people who've been put on hold by 9-1-1 dispatchers.

"This seems to be a thing, even though they say it's not," she said. "They have said something about 96 per cent of the calls are answered within a 3-second period. But what about the 4 per cent? We're in the 4 per cent, and we're the 4 per cent that need emergency services as soon as possible."