Unfair Suspension? I Don’t Think So!

In a previous life I spent well over 3 years as one of the first Paramedics in Indiana in the early 70’s. I was also a fireman and an arson investigator. I made 3,000+ emergency runs during those careers.

Fox has the story below asking readers if the suspension of the two firefighters for transporting an injured child on a firetruck instead of waiting for an ambulance is “unfair”. I say no and I’ll tell you why.

During my careers as a Paramedic, EMT and Fireman I kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings, photos and other memorabilia detailing my experiences. I’ve often thought I should, and have been encouraged to, write a book about those experiences. Like my life story, it would have to be published as fiction because no one would believe it all really happened.

The newspaper article to the left tells only part of the story concerning the tragic and needless death of a beautiful 4 year old Jamaican girl who died from injuries she suffered while crossing an Indianapolis street in May 1975. Her name was Corrine Abdul.

In the early 70’s the Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) did not have any certified EMT or paramedics assigned to their units. In fact few of their crews even had basic Red Cross First Aid training. The Ambulance Division of Marion County General Hospital (renamed Wishard Hospital; and now renamed Eskanazi Hospital) provided all emergency medical care for all of Indianapolis.

It was then, as it is now, policy to dispatch IFD, police and an ambulance to all traffic accidents. The idea was that there were (and are) more fire stations than ambulances.

Unfortunately for the citizens of Indianapolis the Indianapolis Fire Department hadn’t been taught the first rule of all of medicine: “Primum non nocere”, “First Do No Harm”. In other words it’s better to do nothing than to do something that will make the patient worse off. All doctors, nurses, medical technicians, EMTs and Paramedics are taught this rule.

Corrine Abdul was to fall victim to the lack of training of the responding IFD unit, Rescue Squad 14 and the total incompetence of the Indianapolis police officer, patrolman T.C.W., who directed them to take the child to a nearby hospital that wasn’t staffed to handle serious trauma cases. In those days all serious trauma cases went to either Wishard or to Methodist hospitals.

Our Unit, Medic III, was dispatched to this accident. We were about 10 minutes away when we learned that the IFD crew had put the child in the back of their rescue squad and simply rushed to the hospital without any medical care other than oxygen. No splint for her broken femur (upper leg bone). Corrine Abdul received no medical care other than a bone jarring ride to the hospital. She died from a fat embolism that was generated from her broken, unsplinted, femur.

Why did patrolman T.C.W. direct IFD to transport this child to a non-trauma facility? He had a girlfriend at the hospital and this gave him the opportunity to see her.

Could we have saved her if her fat embolism had happened while in our care? Probably not. But there is more than an even chance that we could have PREVENTED the embolism from happening in the first place if we had had the opportunity to splint her broken leg and put her in a vehicle designed to transport critically injured persons. We also would have taken the extra 5 to 7 minutes to carefully transport her to a trauma-designated hospital.

This was a tragic and probably preventable death. Had the IFD crew not panicked and if patrolman T.C.W. hadn’t put his selfish personal needs before the care of an innocent 4 year old child, she might have lived another 41 years. But we’ll never know.

The fireman below were lucky this time as was their patient.


2 Virginia Firefighters Suspended For Transporting Girl To Hospital In Fire Engine

FOX NEWS — Two Virginia volunteer firefighters were suspended for transporting an 18-month-old girl to the hospital in a fire engine last Saturday, ultimately saving her life.

Captain James Kelley and Sgt. Virgil Bloom of the Falmouth Volunteer Fire Department in Fredericksburg were the first to respond to a call of a child having a seizure at an undisclosed location near a McDonald’s and took her to a nearby hospital, according to Fox 5 DC.

Kelley said they were suspended because their fire engine is licensed as a “non-transport unit” and doesn’t have the proper restrains and medications that an ambulance would have. He said when this kind of thing happens firefighters are praised, but then disciplined.

Kelley explained to Fox 5 DC Saturday he told the driver to turn the fire engine on because the child was in desperate need of medical care and the nearest ambulance was about 10 to 15 minutes away. He said when he asked where the nearest medic was, he received vague responses.

The fire engine picked up the child and transported her to Mary Washington Hospital. A separate ambulance requested to meet with the firefighters at the Falmouth Station, but Kelley denied the request because of the proximity to the hospital.

[…]When the firefighters arrived on the scene, Nunamaker’s daughter was limp but she was still breathing and had a pulse. His daughter arrived at the hospital and started to have another seizure, but it stopped momentarily. Nunamaker said his daughter was later transferred to VCU and was later discharged.[…]

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