Const. Vroom taking photographs in the field. (Special to The News)

Const. Vroom taking photographs in the field. (Special to The News)

Maple Ridge woman fights WorkSafeBC over police widow’s pension

Dalila Vroom says husband, Const. Rob Vroom, died as a result of PTSD from time with Abbotsford PD

Dalila Vroom saw her husband’s death coming from a mile away.

It was almost like a slow motion version of one of the many car crashes Const. Robert Vroom had to break down in his role as an expert collision reconstructionist for the Abbotsford Police Department.

She believes the trauma he experienced while working in that role lead to the heart attack that killed him at the age of 50, and she wants WorkSafeBC to acknowledge as much – so she can receive a widow’s pension.

“He died as a result of the toll inflicted upon him by the excessive long-term demands of his extremely stressful police work,” Vroom said.

READ MORE: Vernon Mountie to walk 239 kilometres and raise awareness for PTSD

Vroom was born in New Westminster and raised in Revelstoke. His wife said he came from a long line of civil servants.

“His dad was a police inspector, and his grandpa was a military man,” Dalila said. Since she met him – when she was 23 and he was 22 – he had always wanted to be a police officer.

She said he was confident, always smiling, and full of life.

“He was big into nature, so we went dirt biking, ATVing, boating, and camping. We just had a lot of fun,” Dalila said.

“He loved his job, he loved life, and he loved us,” she said, referring to herself and her son.

A smart man, Vroom always looked for new challenges – so in 2003 he accepted a role as an accident reconstructionist.

He would attend car accidents and figure out how they happened using his detection skills and a knowledge of physics. Vroom’s expertise would also require him to attend homicides and suicides to determine the step-by-step process that lead to loss of lives.

When he took on that role, he took a lot of pride in the important position, Dalila recounted. But changes within his department ended up making the demanding job more difficult to perform well.

“There were eight people in his section [when he began]. But then there were budget cutbacks, and then there were only two guys, Rob and his partner,” she said.

As the role was highly specialized, neighbouring police forces would sometimes require his services too.

“The problem was Port Moody had nobody, so he was doing Abbotsford crashes, deaths, and murders and he was and also doing Port Moody, and when Chilliwack was short too, he was doing three places,” his wife said.

“So basically he was overworked, and he couldn’t get the breaks that he needed in between, and it did him in.”

Dalila recalled many times when Robert would return home from an overnight 12-hour shift, eat breakfast, and head back out when a call came in. They would also be called back from vacations, or have a day at the slopes cut short when duty called.

“It burned him out to the point he couldn’t do it anymore,” Dalila said.

The changes in Vroom started off small.

He would experience headaches every now and again. But over time, Dalila said, they became more frequent, then turned into migraines, which affected his vision.

The ailments travelled from his head to other parts of his body. Vroom started sweating uncontrollably and suffered painful stomach issues.

He went from taking Tylenol every few days, to requiring strong headache and anti-anxiety medication.

Vroom began having trigger areas that would induce panic attacks. Visiting places where he had attended an accident scene could leave him shaking and sweating. It got to the point where he was fearful of going most places in Abbotsford, she shared.

READ MORE: Retired B.C. firefighter shares his battle with PTSD

Having seen enough, Dalila encouraged him to approach WorkSafeBC for some help.

Vroom was given psychological testing and then sent back into the field after the WorkSafeBC assessment showed no signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, she said.

The issues did not go away, Dalila said, and her husband began to sink deeper into a mire.

“He started getting nightmares, and then he couldn’t sleep. He had to play his DVD player all night and he would just watch sitcoms and comedies.

When he would sleep, Dalila said, his previous cases were like films playing over and over again in his head. All the stuff he’d seen; the blood, the guts, the body parts, would replay again and again.

Despite Vroom’s reluctance, Dalila said she forced him to approach WorkSafeBC again.

He saw six psychologists and two psychiatrists but the methods they used were only making Vroom worse.

“The nightmares that he had in the night, he had to talk about in the day,” Dalila said, “They were opening up that closet, so now he had no space in his life where he was free of it.

“He would go to treatment, and he would tell what happened. He would open up the closet of horrors and then it would be time up. Time to go home. Then he’d come home and I’d have to de-escalate him cause he’d be furious.”

While the treatments were ongoing, Dalila said, Vroom developed a rash, as well as pins-and-needles all over his skin.

“His anxiety got so bad he put himself in lockdown. He wouldn’t come out of the house,” she said.

“His PTSD that he had from work turned into Major Depressive Disorder, and that was from the WorkSafe treatment,” Dalila believes.

“Which wasn’t treatment,” she continued. “It was like torture to him.”

She knew if something drastic didn’t happen soon, her husband would die, Dalila recalled.

“I went to the chief. I went to the police union. I went to human resources. I went to WorkSafe. I went to the doctors and said, ‘You need to help this guy or he is going to kill himself’,” she said.

“You need to pension him off. He can’t handle it. He can’t handle the treatment,” his wife told them all.

“All he wanted was peace. To be left alone.”

A work advocate was provided by the police union and Vroom was pensioned off by the Abbotsford PD in December 2017, days after his 50th birthday.

Within seven months, he was dead.

READ MORE: B.C. paramedics focus of PTSD documentary

“Before he died he kept saying, ‘I can’t take this any more. I can’t live like this anymore,’ and he dropped a whole pile of weight,” Dalila said. “He stopped eating, and he stopped drinking, despite my son and I pleading with him to eat.”

On the morning of July 26, 2018, Dalila went to the garden store.

As she left, Vroom was outside in the front yard working on an ATV trailer.

By the time she got home, just a short while later, he was dead from a heart attack.

His treating doctor notified WorkSafeBC that his premature death resulted, in whole or in part, due to the physical and psychological effects of his work-related extreme PTSD and MDD, Dalila said.

But, since her husband’s death, WorkSafeBC has refused to recognize her entitlement to a police widow’s claim, which would allow her to continue receiving Vroom’s pension.

“They’re saying you can’t die from a mental health conditions,” Dalila said. “But I think you can.

“If you don’t eat, and you don’t drink, and you don’t socialize, and you don’t have contact with anybody, and your emotion is set, you’re done.

“And that’s what caused it,” she insisted. “But they won’t admit to that.”

In an email to The Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows News, WorkSafeBC expressed their sympathy to Dalila at the untimely death of her husband.

They said Vroom’s claim was accepted for PTSD and MDD as a result of the multiple traumas he experienced in the line of duty and explained how they went about processing Vroom’s claim.

“WorkSafeBC administers an inquiry-based system,” they wrote.

”Staff would have requested assessments for the purpose of treatment recommendations and to determine the permanent impacts his condition had on his functioning. All assessments and treatments would have been provided by highly trained professionals who would understand and be sensitive to the need not to further traumatize patients.”

To the claims of aggravation from the treatment Vroom received, WorkSafeBC said: “We strive and will continue to strive to ensure that treatment and support does not cause additional stress for workers, especially those with PTSD and other psychological disorders.

“The concerns Mrs. Vroom is expressing will definitely be considered in our reviews of our assessment and support services.”

In regards to the benefits for which Dalila believes she is eligible for, they disagree.

“Following Mr. Vroom’s death, an extensive review of his claim and health history was conducted. In addition, WorkSafeBC sought the expert advice of internal and external specialists.

“Mrs. Vroom was advised that she was not eligible for benefits as the evidence and advice did not support a conclusion that the PTSD, the depressive disorder, or other workplace factors caused his death.”

Furthermore, they said the case is still open to independent review and appeal, and added that expedited processes can be requested.

Dalila said she will not be happy until this issue is sorted out.

“After five years of battling WorkSafe, my son and I need peace in our lives,” she said.



ronan.p.odoherty@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

abbotsfordmaple ridgePoliceptsd

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Const. Robert Vroom. (Special to The News)

Const. Robert Vroom. (Special to The News)

Just Posted

Members of the Haney Horsemen and other equestrian users will be riding the Thornhill Trails in large numbers this weekend. (Haney Horsemen/Special to The News)
Horsemen out in force in Maple Ridge this weekend

Riders assert need to save Thornhill Trails for equestrian users

There has been a COVID-19 exposure at Olympians Gym in Maple Ridge. (Black Press files)
COVID exposure at Maple Ridge gym

Exposure took place at Olympians Gym Feb. 17-19

Local letter writer said fundraiser might help change social perception about people who are homeless. (Black Press Media file photo)
LETTER: What if society held a telethon to help homeless

Pitt Meadows resident lauds Variety Club for telethon. Would the fundraiser work for other causes?

The Harris Park pool in Pitt Meadows will not be open for the 2021 season. (The News files)
Pitt Meadows closes pool for the coming season

COVID-19 safety measures would limit swimmers at Harris Park pool

Bears are starting to come out of hibernation, coordinator of Maple Ridge division of WildSafeBC warns. (Ross Davies/Special to The News)
Bear sightings in Maple Ridge

Coordinator of WildSafeBC Maple Ridge warning residents to eliminate attractants

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Passengers aboard Komagata Maru in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, 1914 - Library and Archives Canada image
Abbotsford council is asked to rename street in memory of Komagata Maru victims

Most of 376 the passengers aboard ship were denied entry into Canada in 1914

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Framed photos of Travis Selje and other items fill the top of a dresser in his bedroom. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Crown says defence case epilepsy caused fatal Surrey crash fails on balance of probabilities

‘She very clearly had some form of control over that vehicle,’ Crown argues

Most Read