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Two dead from snowshovelling-related cardiac arrest in Renfrew County

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While many stay home and inside during snowstorms, first responders battle conditions to respond to calls.

Renfrew County Paramedics say they responded to 12 snow-related calls by midday Saturday following the storm that swept across the region.

"Most of our calls today have been storm related," said operations commander Nick Leriche.

"Lots of chest pain from shovelling, lots of injuries, falls, shortness of breath."

Paramedics say two people between the ages of 50 and 70 died Saturday, suffering cardiac arrests while shovelling.

On Saturday, Renfrew County Paramedics also responded to three calls for car crashes, four calls for slips and falls, and one call each for back pain, shortness of breath, and altered level of awareness.

"This morning, it was a gentleman out shovelling some residential sidewalks near a business, and he collapsed," said paramedic Devon Dean.

Bystanders called 9-1-1 and the man was taken to hospital, where he later died.

Neither person who died has been publicly identified. 

"The patients are attempting to shovel snow too quickly," explained Leriche. "They're overexerting themselves. Shovelling snow can be quite the workout."

When heavy snow flies in the Ottawa Valley, paramedics know they are in for a long day. On top of the extra snow related calls, medics say the conditions make their job more dangerous and strenuous.

"You can't see out of the back of your vehicle," said 21-year veteran paramedic John Greene, citing near whiteout conditions at times.

"There's snow caked all over the back. There's no high visibility so you always run the risk of someone coming into the back of you."

Responding in rural Ontario, many back roads, side streets, and driveways do not get plowed immediately after the snow ends, adding to the obstacles.

"They call 9-1-1 and completely forget about the driveway and forget that we have to get in there, so that makes it a little difficult," says Dean.

"The stretcher is only three or four inches off the ground," adds Greene, "and you're dragging it through the snow, and also you're dragging all that snow with you."

To reduce the number of shovelling related calls they respond to, paramedics recommend shovelling snow in stages and going slow. Proper footwear can also reduce the risk of slipping.

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