February 13, 2008

Doesn’t 911 have Google maps?

Posted in Commentary at 2:41 am by Iram

I was standing in the parking lot at Target when I heard some excited conversation going on a few rows down. Assuming it to be somebody on the phone, I ignored it and continued walking to my car, but soon the sounds that I had taken to be conversation turned into pleas for help. I turned in the direction of the commotion and tried to figure out what was going on. An African-American woman was standing by her truck, screaming something into the cell phone that she held up to her ear with one hand, while using her other hand to try to lift a lump off the floor. I moved closer and realized that it was not a lump – it was a man.

It seemed that her husband had collapsed while getting out of their truck and she was on the phone to 911 to get some help. Within seconds a small crowd had gathered around the woman. While some of the surrounding people also pulled out their phones to call 911, others helped raise the man off the ground and sat him up in the driver’s seat. His face drooped on one side, and his breathing was labored and gurgling – he was having a stroke and it seemed like he was going to choke on his tongue if somebody didn’t do something about his position. But before anybody could make any comment, he collapsed over again, this time laying himself down on his side on the passenger seat. I watched the whole scene, frozen in place. Sure, I’ve read plenty of books about the multiple causes of strokes and the symptoms seen in admitted stroke patients, and even the drugs that we’re supposed to give to stroke patients, but not once did I read about what to do when somebody has a stroke right before my eyes.

As these thoughts wandered through my panic-stricken mind I realized that all of the callers on the line to 911 were looking at each other, shocked. They had been requesting an ambulance to the Target that sits on Old Spanish Trail across the street from the Reliant Arena, but no ambulance could be dispatched without a street address. Was it not enough that we’ve given you an intersection? Apparently not. Are you kidding me? What store posts its street address in front for all of the public to read? But the operator was adamant. She simply could not dispatch the ambulance without a street address. Finally, a security officer noticed the commotion and made his way over to the crowd. He gave us the street address and the ambulance came speeding from the nearby Houston Medical Center, but I still stood in shock. One thing that I DO remember about stroke is that the faster a patient receives treatment, the better their prognosis. But in this case, the poor man was denied help for an additional five minutes simply because nobody had the exact street address of the store. When we’re talking about blood supply to the human brain, five minutes is a very long time.

1 Comment »

  1. Van said,

    IRAM! I haven’t talked to you in forever. How are things? Let’s catch up soon. I am completely with you on this entry. Putting medicine to practice is a very scary idea!


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