Fire chief, friends pitch in to end paramedic's run of rotten luck

Fire chief, friends pitch in to end paramedic's run of rotten luck
CBC News

Ottawa paramedic Nicole Lowden and her family have faced more crisis in the past 18 months than most people experience in a lifetime.

Lowden's 22-year old daughter, Hailey, is battling cancer. Last year the family sandbagged and pumped out their Constance Bay home to keep out that spring's devastating floodwaters. Then on Friday, the rental home they'd been living in was flattened when a tornado carved a trail of destruction through Dunrobin.
 
Lowden's son, Daniel, was sleeping in his upstairs bedroom and barely escaped before the twister struck. Her husband, Brian, a volunteer firefighter, had been on duty at the Carp Fair but raced home when he heard the weather warnings.
 
The Lowdens did not have renters' insurance.
 
Now, the family has finally caught a break: Ottawa fire Chief Kim Ayotte has thrown them a lifeline, offering the family the use of his empty house.
 
"God bless them, him and his family," Lowden said from the kitchen of their new home.
 
"For them to open up their house like this to us, it's more than words can say. It's just finally given us some peace of mind."
 
Lowden said the family had been offered separate, individual accommodation. But with Hailey undergoing chemotherapy for Stage 2 Hodgkins Lymphoma, Lowden said her priority was keeping her family together.
 
"I couldn't imagine separating us right now. Not after everything we've been through."
 
The three-bedroom property sits just a few kilometres from where the Lowdens were renting when the tornado struck.
 
Ayotte had recently moved out of the area, so the house was up for sale, according to the Ottawa Paramedic HELP Fund.
 
Ayotte did not want to be interviewed. In a statement, he said, "I do not want this story to take away from all of the great things done by so many people in the community and the incredible response to this disaster from the City of Ottawa."
 
The Ottawa Paramedic HELP Fund said Ayotte is not asking the Lowdens for anything in return.
 
Community pitches in
On Monday, Lowden's former colleagues and neighbours arrived at the fire chief's former home to help her move in. Daughter Hailey and son Daniel lent a hand, too. There were tears and laughter as Lowden joked about the demands she's made on her friends in recent months.
 
"I was saying to my friends yesterday, 'I'm the friend you don't want, because for the last 18 months I've been calling on you endlessly.'"
 
During the flood in Constance Bay, Lowden said even strangers showed up to help save their home.
 
"That's why I love this community," Lowden said. "Absolutely all of Ottawa is showing up for this. We can't be more thankful."
 
With the support of that community, the family is now trying to to return to normal. The optimism that Lowden was unable to muster over the weekend is slowly coming back.
 
"We're going to keep on and keep positive," she said. "We're going to beat what was thrown at us on Friday, and we're all going to come stronger for it."