January 28, 2015 - 4:30 PM
TWO NURSES WENT OUT ON A LATE NIGHT COFFEE-RUN FOR CO-WORKERS. ONE RETURNED IN AN AMBULANCE
VERNON — The night shift nurses in Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s bustling Unit C—a section of the emergency room—have long taken turns going out on their break and bringing back coffee for the team. In the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 2014, Erin Rae Smith, 33, from Kelowna, and Lindsey Hauck, 31, from Vernon, went on what should have been a routine coffee run.
It was instead a drive that changed everything.
Around 1:15 a.m., their car was T-boned by a suspected drunk driver. Smith died at the scene, and Hauck was rushed right back to Vernon Jubilee Hospital with serious injuries.
Coworker and friend Tabatha Dunnill was at the hospital when she found out about the accident. She got someone to cover for her and ran down to emergency, reeling with shock. Her friends were supposed to be back by now, coffee cups in hand.
“We’ve each done it (coffee run) probably 100 times,” Dunnill says.
Hauck was transferred to Kelowna General Hospital for treatment of her injuries. She spent her birthday and her favourite holiday, Halloween, undergoing surgeries and swallowing the grief of a lost friend. Three months later, the single mom is still fighting to get her health and her life back. Her days are filled with doctor’s appointments, physiotherapy and trying to sleep. Because of a head injury, the bubbly, outgoing LPN—who before the accident was juggling work, CrossFit, piano lessons and working to get her RN—is plagued with fatigue.
“Hopefully she can work again because she loves it,” Dunnill says.
Coworker and friend Michelle Brown says Hauck has received overwhelming support from friends, family and the community, which helps her maintain a positive spirit.
“There’s no wallowing for her, she’s super strong,” Brown says.
Hauck, Smith, Dunnill and Brown knew each other through work, but they were close friends outside the hospital too. Smith’s death was a major loss for the hospital, and for all who knew her.
“Everybody (who) works back there, you have to be a certain type of person. Erin was a go-with-the-flow person. She was really great with all types of people, non-judgemental. She was an amazing person and an amazing nurse,” Brown says.
Police continue to investigate the accident with the possibility criminal charges will be laid, RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk says. The driver was suspected to be under the influence of alcohol, and Molendyk says there could be charges such as impaired driving causing death, criminal negligence or impaired driving causing bodily harm recommended to Crown counsel, depending on what the evidence supports.
“We want to make sure that at the end of the day we have completed a thorough investigation to go forward, because in a case like this a young woman has lost her life and another will be affected for the rest of her days,” Molendyk says. “It isn’t just those involved, it’s also a ripple effect in the community.”
In memory of Smith and in support of Hauck’s medical and living costs, coworkers and friends have organized a costume party fundraiser. Both Smith and Hauck’s favourite holiday was Halloween so it was decided the party would feature a Mexican sugar skull theme.
“We chose it because one of the last things Erin gave Lindsey was a sugar skull figurine. We took that and the fact that in Mexico, it’s to celebrate lost loved ones,” Dunnill says. “Lindsey missed all of Halloween, her birthday, and everything she was so excited about. We decided to do something where everyone can come and dress up and have a big party.”
An online fundraising campaign launched shortly after the accident raised over $23,000 for Hauck.
"She was saying if that hadn't been done for her she would have been lost. That sustained her, and we're hoping this will help her even more,” Brown says.
The party will be the first time Hauck has gone out since the accident, and in a daily routine of doctor appointments, it will be a welcome change. The event at Elk’s Hall Saturday, Jan. 31 will feature live music, a silent auction and sugar skull face painting by donation.
“Every cent is going to Lindsey for her living costs,” Dunnill says. “She’s such a good person, I can’t even imagine how hard it would be. If there’s anything we can to do make things easier we will.”
Dunnill says community support for the event has been incredible, with the Elks Hall donating the space free of charge and bands offering to play at no cost.
Tickets are $25 and are available at the door while they last, or by contacting Dunnill in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org or Brown at email@example.com.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015