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Still waiting for ‘Patients First’ care

Editor’s Note: This report is based on a May 3, 2013, EMS run. It is being published now because the family has had a chance to grieve and wants to share their experience with voters before the Nov. 5 election. This report is based on the Licking County 9-1-1 Center’s records including a tape of radio traffic, the Buckeye Lake Fire Department’s EMS report, Licking Memorial’s triage assessment and a May 2013 interview with two of the three family members present. This is their story.

Buckeye Lake Village officials, fire department officers and the members present that night have not been given an opportunity to respond at this point. The Beacon is reserving an equal amount of space in next week’s edition (until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22) for their specific response to this report. Comments will be published as presented (no editing), provided they specifically address this incident. This report is NOT alleging nor speculating that the crew’s actions or inactions are responsible for or contributed to Terri Graham’s death.

BUCKEYE LAKE – Mariah heard her grandmother fall around 2:40 a.m. on May 3. She and her grandfather got scared because Terri was talking incoherently and couldn’t get up off the floor. She really had to go to the bathroom and was soiling herself on the floor.

The call came into the 9-1-1 Center at 2:56:25. Buckeye Lake was dispatched at 2:56:59 for “injuries from a fall.” A “first responder” (single cardholder) was enroute at 3:01:39, nearly five minutes after the first dispatch. Buckeye Lake reported on the scene at 03:04:09. Buckeye Lake’s report claims that the patient assessment – pulse, respiration, BP & oxygen – was done 70 seconds after arrival. An IV was reported to be started one minute later.

Mariah said the first person on the scene was a Buckeye Lake Police officer who just walked in the door, checked Terri’s eyes and left. Ultimately, two EMT-Basics, one EMT-Intermediate and Assistant Chief Rod Riley were on the scene. Mariah and her mother, Athena, who came to the house, state that the highest trained EMT (intermediate) didn’t come into the house. They believe he was outside smoking.

Mariah said none of them bent down to check on her grandmother. “Not one of them even tried to get close to her to even talk to her,” she said. “They’re just standing there absolutely motionless!”

EMT’s did ask some questions, primarily whether Terri hit her head. Mariah said her grandmother said she didn’t hit her head, but she believes she did because she was talking so incoherently.

Mariah said she left her grandmother’s side soon after the crew arrived to call her mother to come to the house. When she walked into the middle room, two EMT’s “were making fun of my grandmother for not wanting to wipe.” She felt, “they were just judging her and I understand that she was a bigger woman and sometimes it’s hard to deal with people when you’re in that situation but to make fun of them when they’re incoherent and don’t want to wipe or because they’re just large and you have to help them into a chair…” Mariah emphasized that the “older gentleman” (Riley) never laughed.

Time is difficult to track during stressful situations. After long minutes of watching her grandmother on the floor, Mariah said her grandmother asked to be put on the toilet. An EMT on each arm lifted her up and helped her walk into the bathroom. The radio traffic tape confirms the passage of time. The 9-1-1 Center made crew checkup calls at 3:19 (about 15 minutes after arrival) and 3:35 (about 30 minutes after arrival).

Soon after being placed on the toilet, Athena said her mother kept falling forward and saying, “Sissy, I can’t breathe.” Athena left the bathroom to tell the crew to take over. Riley walked into the bathroom, but Mariah said her grandmother wasn’t given oxygen. “They didn’t bring in anything, she said. “They didn’t check anything on her. I don’t know what they did when they got her into the ambulance car… but all I know is that they didn’t do anything the entire time they were there.”

After the breathing problem complaint, the crew brought in a gurney in the chair position.

Athena said her mother repeatedly said, “I don’t want to go to Licking Memorial.” Terri specifically asked to be taken to Mt. Carmel where she had been treated recently for a compound fracture of her back. Athena said a young kid (EMT-Basic) looked at her father and said, “You have to go to Licking Memorial.” He didn’t explain why she had to go to Licking Memorial. Athena added that the crew didn’t protest when she offered to drive her mother to Mt. Carmel.

The crew – at least one member leaves the scene in a private vehicle – leaves for LMH at 3:41:41, nearly 38 minutes after arriving on the scene. The 11.5 mile trip in the dead of night takes just over 21 minutes. Family members arrive at the hospital some 10 minutes before the squad. The squad radios LMH at 3:58 (17 minutes after leav- ing), reporting a blood pressure of 112/68. The squad arrives at 4:02:53. Family members quickly notice that she now has an IV. LMH’s triage assessment is completed at 4:12. Her blood pressure is 89/41.

Terri Graham, age 59, passed away about 12 hours later at Licking Memorial Hospital.

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