Friday, January 8, 2010

An Embarrassment To Their Profession

I work with paramedics on a daily basis and I can tell you they are good and caring people. I have seen them do things that go way beyond their call of duty. Knowing these men and women makes this story even harder to digest.

It is a story that I have been following for almost a month off and on. The incident happened on December 9th. Sorry, the article is a little long but when I attempted to cut it, some of the impact of the event was lost.

Asthma Blamed in Death of Pregnant Woman Allegedly Ignored by EMTs

Although that tentative finding still leaves open the question of whether the EMTs could have saved 25-year-old coffee shop worker Eutisha Rennix — and her unborn baby — there was no doubt about the answer for Rennix's mom.

"They should have helped her," said Cynthia Rennix after the autopsy at the Medical Examiner's Office in Brooklyn. "She would have been here today.

"This should never happen to another family again, because my family is destroyed right now," said the heartbroken mom outside the ME's office, where she was accompanied by relatives, including her daughter's 3-year-old son. "It makes me very angry."

Cynthia said the EMTs, Jason Green and Melisa Jackson, "could have given her the care that she needed to help her."

The autopsy was attended by former city medical examiner Michael Baden, who observed the procedure for the family.

The family's lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein, said: "Preliminarily, it appears the cause of death was simply an asthma."

"Had the asthma attack been addressed by the EMTs, would she have died? That's the question that has to be answered," Rubenstein said. "If there is criminal culpability, the EMTs should be held accountable."

City authorities have said that the emergency workers had a duty to check on Rennix.

Baden said an autopsy that was performed yesterday on Rennix's daughter showed the baby died as a result of oxygen deprivation. She was delivered some time after Rennix died.

Rennix collapsed Dec. 9 in a back room of the Au Bon Pain at MetroTech Center in Downtown Brooklyn, where she worked. The coffee shop is a favorite of firefighters and emergency medical technicians who work upstairs at the FDNY's offices.

Shop workers said Green and Jackson blew off repeated pleas to check on Rennix themselves, saying, "We're on our break, so there's nothing we can do," as they waited for their orders of Asiago cheese bagels.

Jackson eventually called one of her fellow emergency dispatchers upstairs to notify them that a woman was having "difficulty breathing," but she and her boyfriend Green left with their bagels before an ambulance arrived — and without even looking at Rennix.

Rennix died hours later in a hospital, as did her baby.

Jackson and Green — who have been suspended by the Fire Department without pay — now are targets of a criminal investigation by the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office.

The EMTs' lawyer, Douglas Rosenthal, yesterday said, "It's premature to comment at this point."


This is disgusting. I can tell you that in health care we don't go on break. From the moment I drive onto the campus at work until the moment I am on the road home, I am an RN on duty. I may not be punched in, I might even be there for a meeting and off for the day. Either way, I would stop and help someone in distress. Even beyond that I will stop at the scene of an accident to assist as most of my colleagues would. We have the ability, we need to use it.

Our lunch break is taken in the department so that we can be called off at any time. It doesn't happen often and when I was a charge nurse I did it as a last resort but it is a part of the job.

As most of you know I work in an Emergency Room and we go from slow to crazy immediately. In good conscience none of us would sit and eat while a patient is in severe distress. There have been plenty of times when I have worked 12 hours without a break or lunch was at my workstation in between tasks.

I'm not whining, I love my job and accept the downsides. Reality is that we entered the health care field to help people, these two let this woman down.

The saddest part is that if she had an asthma attack, there is a good chance that mother and baby would still be alive if they had intervened early and treated her.

Quite frankly I hope they go to jail.


Gramma 2 Many said...

Absolutely disgusting...need I say more?

cube said...

The behavior of these EMTs is inexcusable. Break or not, they should've tried to help this poor woman and her baby. How can people be so cold and inhumane?

MK said...

I feel the same way Chuck. Legally they might not be in trouble, but it's really nasty to tell someone to just shove off cos you're on your break.

Chuck said...

Gramma, it does capture it

Cube, I find it completely foreign

MK, they have actually charged health care professionals with negligent homicide (I believe that is the charge they have used). Anyways the point is, they have charged helath care providers when they have been grossly negligent. The success rate has been spotty but it has been done.

FairWitness said...

Chuck, paramedics & EMT's in NYC are employed by the New York Fire Dept. and are represented by a powerful labor union.

I doubt these disgraces to their uniforms will face any charges or reprimand.

Nothing will happen to them and they probably stink at their jobs, too. Even when they are on duty. This kind of callousness and lack of dedication is what unionization does. It protects pieces of excrement like this who have no business getting anywhere near folks who need medical attention.

You watch this, these assholes will walk on this.

And our President thinks we ALL should be represented by unions. God help us all. Obamacare will unionize healthcare workers nationwide and then we'll all be subjected to this indifference and callous disregard of human needs.

Leslie said...

Is the money in the profession of EMT that good? I ask because I wonder: if you do not have the heart to help a person, why keep a job in the field of helping people?

I honestly don't know how they could sleep at night after doing such a thing.


Chuck said...

Fairwitness, I'm actually not anti-union although I do suspect there is truth to what you are saying. I get the feeling the union may be letting this one go, notice they were suspended without pay.

Leslie, these two may be doing fairly well because they are unionized members of FDNY but overall the pay for paramedics is a disgrace. I considered doing it at one time until I saw what they were getting paid.

Always On Watch said...

IMO, medical professionals do care about their patients and function exactly as they should -- on break or not.

But in the past several months, since Mr. AOW's stroke, twice I've had occasion to say to myself, "Huh?"

1. On the day of Mr. AOW's stroke, when I summoned the EMT's, their first words to me upon learning that he is diabetic, were "It's probably a diabetic seizure." This, in spite of the fact that I'd already told the EMT's that I had a phone message from Mr. AOW saying that he was having a stroke and that his diabetes was mild in severity and always under control. Of course, once they saw Mr. AOW, the EMT's realized that Mr. AOW had indeed suffered a stroke.

2. The home health care agency assigned an RN to visit Mr. AOW. Not only were her visits infrequent, but she didn't call back or visit again as scheduled when she found Mr. AOW's blood pressure was too high and evincing a climbing trend.

In any case, medical professionals should never refuse to do their duty because they're "on break." One shouldn't choose the medical profession if one has such a mindset! Lives are on the line!

In the event cited in this post, death did ensue -- directly as a result of medical negligence. The EMT's in this case should be immediately fired and hauled into litigation court.

Chuck said...

AOW, I will be the first to admit we have bad apples. I have spent my career attempting to address this issue. I know this sounds arrogant but it is true and I think it is true of most medical professionals that have any integrity. Unfortunately, the bad ones reflect on all of us.

LASunsett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LASunsett said...


I am not sure what kind of equipment these guys had with them at the time. As you know, without a stethoscope, BP cuff, or an oximeter, assessment isn't easy. Without drugs treatment may be close to impossible.

The thing these guys are most guilty of is, indifference. They could/should have called a unit and at least tried to reassure the lady (and those around her) that help was on the way, if nothing else was in their power.

I agree with you in your statement of no excuses. If you are not a people person and DO NOT want to help them, you have no business in the healthcare profession.

LASunsett said...

The Comment deleted was from me. It happens when I type before caffeine has taken effect.

Chuck said...

LA, I agree and I thought about this. That is an inherent danger in blogging in that we don't really know the whole story.

With that said, they could have at a minimum called for more help instead of sitting and waiting for their bagel as the article seems to make clear they did. This did show extreme callousness.

Beyond that, a stethoscope is not really needed for an asthmatic that is having an attack bad enough that she died a few hours later. They should have been able to hear audible wheezing and seen her gasping for breath.

Assuming that the hospital did not screw up (there is no mention of this) and knowing that she died hours after getting to the hospital, she was likely in status asthmaticus when she got there and was unable to be resuscitated. She likely was intubated and only died several hours later after the family withdrew.

Again the above is speculation based on personal experience with asthma in the ER but still plausible.

I also made the assumption that if they were on break, they did have equipment available as opposed to being on the way to or from work in which they would not have had their truck.

In the end it is a lot of educated guessing based on a few articles I have read as the case unfolds and my personal experience. This is the one benefit for them in our justice system, innocent until proven guilty.

Sorry about the long reply, my coffee has kicked in ;)

LASunsett said...

//a stethoscope is not really needed for an asthmatic that is having an attack bad enough that she died a few hours later. They should have been able to hear audible wheezing and seen her gasping for breath.//

Agreed, in this case. My comment was more generalized than this case. Many times healthcare professionals come across situations that are not as easy to assess and without the proper equipment, it becomes nearly impossible. They can and do know something is wrong and can have a hunch, but things cannot be ruled appropriately without more objective data.

//I also made the assumption that if they were on break, they did have equipment available as opposed to being on the way to or from work in which they would not have had their truck.//

Another article I read as a follow up to this one was clearer as to their roles. It stated that these were two dispatchers. Not sure how much equipment they would have had on them on their lunch break.

Still....they had training and their callousness was inexcusable....period.

Chuck said...

LA, didn't see that article. Thanks. Of course then the question is why didn't they dispatch someone?

Brooke said...

ANYONE, EMT or not, would help a pregnant woman or anyone in obvious distress!!!

Unfortunately, there's always an idiot in a bunch of exemplary workers, and that one time gets the media attention.

They should be fired and charged. They didn't even try.

Chuck said...

Brooke, agreed. They could have even helped call 911 for God's sake.

Always On Watch said...

The vast majority of medical professionals with whom I've had had contact have been dedicated professionals. But when one does encounter the bad apples, one gets so frustrated!

Chuck said...

AOW, agreed. You did not offend me, I am right with you.