By Dave Taylor
“Every minute counts,” an emotional man told the Hancock County Fiscal Court during its meeting Monday, but he said the county’s ambulance service had wasted too many of them in getting his wife to the hospital where she ultimately died of a heart attack.
Gary Frazier spoke to the court about the night on June 6 when his wife Tracie suffered a fatal heart attack and he said the ambulance and first responders didn’t seem to be in any hurry.
After Tracie had gotten out of bed to go to the bathroom she complained that her chest and left arm hurt, and before he could call 911 she passed out. After he called and told the dispatcher that his wife had chest and left arm pains and was passing out, Frazier said the ambulance finally arrived at his home in Windward Heights subdivision and already weren’t hurrying.
“Took him three times to back up in my driveway,” Frazier said. “Nobody got out of the ambulance. They both stayed in the ambulance, not even one of them got out to come to the house to see what he could do.”
And when they did come in they didn’t come prepared, he said, and didn’t bring in any bag or any equipment. He told them she was having a heart attack and he wanted her to go to the hospital in Owensboro immediately.
“So they go back outside, pull the ambulance up to where they wanted it, get the gurney out and come in,” he said.
After loading her on the gurney they took her to the ambulance outside and Gary and his daughter prepared to follow behind after they gathered up things for the trip.
“Well we got her some clothes, and I make sure the dog didn’t get out of the house while the door was open for the ambulance people,” he said. “We get in the cars, my daughter’s behind me, she backs up in the driveway, I back out. The ambulance is still sitting in my driveway.”
“I get out of the car, walk up to the ambulance. I could see in the back and they was putting stickers on her,” he said, adding that the driver was just watching.
“I knocked on the door and I said what in the hell is going on?” he said.
They told him they had to put those stickers on for monitoring, but he told them the driver could be driving while the other works as they go.
“They drive to Owensboro, they drive normal speed, they stop at stoplights,” he said. “And we followed the ambulance and they never got over 62 mph on the four-lane going to Owensboro, and I was behind them.”
“Fifteen minutes after she gets to the hospital her heart stops and it takes them 30 minutes to get her heart back going again,” he said. “They told me she had so much brain damage we had to let her die.”
Why, Frazier asked the court, did the ambulance not hurry?
“I’m not saying they would’ve saved her life, but it’s like the doctor told us, every minute counts, and if he’d had time to get her to the heart cath she might’ve lived,” he said.
“We’ve pulled the CAD reports, we’ve looked into that, we’re going to continue to look into it,” said judge-executive Johnny “Chic” Roberts. “And that’s why I asked you to come today and just speak publicly. These meetings are public and I think you need to share your story.”
Frazier said the attorney he is dealing with for his wife’s estate has told him to sue the county, the ambulance, and even the ambulance workers, but he doesn’t want to do that.
“I live in this county. I don’t want to sue this county,” he said. “I’m not after anybody‘s job or nothing. But what I’m saying is your policy should be if somebody’s complaining about chest pains, it doesn’t matter what it is, you get them to the hospital as fast as you can where the real doctors can work on them and look at them.”
“The reason I’m bringing all this up is I don’t want it to happen to anybody else,” he said.
Roberts said the court will look further into the incident and that the ambulance service is getting prices on a program that will expedite emergency calls, but that even if everything was done correctly that night there’s always room for improvement.
“To me that’s how improvements are made, how changes are made,” he said. “If we can do something that helps this situation the next time I think it’s worth a lot.”
County Attorney Paul Madden, Jr. suggested the county find an outside party to review the policies to look for ways to improve them.
“I think that’s a good recommendation that you maybe let someone else look at it,” said Roberts. “Just because we’ve always done it like that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best way to do it.”