In yet another instance of injustice against a black person, four Hillsborough County, FL fire-rescue paramedics have been suspended for failing to transport or even check the vital signs of a black woman suffering from a stroke because they assumed she couldn’t afford the ambulance ride.
The woman’s mother ended up driving her to the hospital, where she was immediately airlifted to another hospital due to the seriousness of her condition. The victim, Crystle Galloway, died on July 9, just three days before her thirty-first birthday at Tampa Bay General after slipping into a coma from which she never awoke, according to WPBF-TV News.
Galloway was found on July 4 suffering from what seemed to be symptoms of a stroke by her mother, whose name is given as Nicole Benhamou in the Tampa Bay Times, but as Nicole Black in a number of other sites, including People and The Root. (We’re going to go with “Black” since that was the name used most often.)
Galloway, who had given birth via C-section just days earlier, was found passed out with a swollen lip and was drooling, but when the paramedics arrived, they didn’t even examine her. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the call was coded to alert paramedics that Galloway was suffering a possible stroke, but instead of transporting her to the hospital themselves, they simply helped carry her downstairs and place her in her mother’s car.
And all of this happened because the medics incorrectly assumed that Galloway and Black couldn’t afford the ambulance. Speaking to WPBF-TV News, Black claims that she felt stereotyped. She said, “They never asked us if we had insurance, which we do.” The medics helped get Galloway down the stairs, but then again told Galloway and Black that they couldn’t afford an ambulance.
“The whole conversation as the EMS drivers put my child in my car was that was best for us because we couldn’t afford an ambulance,” Black explained. “My daughter begged for her life, she begged.”
Wondering how much the ambulance ride that could maybe have saved her daughter’s life actually cost? According to The Root, $600.
The four paramedics, who have been placed on administrative leave with pay, are Lt. John “Mike” Morris, Fire Medic Justin Sweeney, Fire Medic Andrew J. Martin, and Acting Lt. Cortney Barton. They also stand accused of falsifying paperwork because they wrote that the patient hadn’t been found when clearly she had.
Michael Lozano, Fire Rescue medical director, wrote a statement that was read by Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill. In it, he said, in part, “I cannot trust these individuals to work under my medical license. I feel they do not meet the minimum standards set by myself and the department.”
In a GoFundMe page set up to help raise money for her three now motherless grandchildren, Black wrote, “You know that this is a nightmare for me. I buried my daughter.”