NBC10 Philadelphia - Marisa Brahney
Ambulances have been pulled from Philadelphia streets after a pregnant woman died inside a city rescue. Paramedics couldn't get the woman out because the doors were jammed. Philadelphia Fire Commissioner tells NBC10's Marisa Brahney that protocols were not followed in the case.
A 24-year-old woman, who was nine months pregnant, died Monday while in the care of Philadelphia medics. Her family claims her death could have been prevented if medics provided proper care and the ambulance doors were working properly.
After an exclusive interview with the family, NBC10's Marisa Brahney showed the surveillance video taken from outside the family's home, to City Public Safety Director Michael Resnick and Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, who acknowledge there are some questions about how this call was handled.
The family of Joanne Rodriguez says they called 911 after finding the expectant mother had fallen down the stairs and was having trouble breathing. The family says she was asthmatic and on medication for a blood clot.
"I told her (dispatcher) she fell down the steps, she's 37 weeks pregnant, she's hurt, she's lying down. She's responsive but she can't breathe," said Carmen Morales, aunt.
Her family says Medic 22 took just 3 minutes to get from the firehouse to their house. Surveillance video from the family home shows the medics walking into the house without any medical equipment, which is one issue that Ayers confirms is part of the investigation.
"They start looking at my niece and say 'okay ma'am I need you to sit up.' My niece is telling them 'please, I can't breathe, I'm weak, I can't move' and she was like 'you need to do your part.' The EMT is telling her she needs to do her part," said Morales.
According to that surveillance video, it took 8 minutes for the medics to bring Rodriguez out of the home and another minute before the emergency workers gave her any oxygen.
"We want to give people oxygen if they're having difficulty breathing immediately and that's one of the things we are looking at as well," said Ayers.
After Rodriguez was loaded into the ambulance, the video shows it took another 7 minutes for the ambulance to leave for Temple University Hospital. Rodriguez's mother rode inside the ambulance with her daughter.
A Fire Department investigation has found it was a total of twenty minutes from the time the medics arrived at the family's house, until reaching Temple University Hospital.
Once the ambulance arrived, Commissioner Ayers says the medics immediately realized the ambulance doors were stuck.
"The EMT says 'Oh my God.’ Her heart stops beating, that's when they arrive to the hospital. The other EMT goes around to open the doors, they can't open the doors, the doors are stuck," said Morales.
Her aunt says the medics tried to get the door open from the inside and outside and it wasn't until an officer from Temple University Hospital came out to help that they got the doors open.
The Fire Department investigation found that Rodriguez was stuck for about three and a half minutes, during which a doctor was able to get inside the ambulance through a side door and start working on her. Rodriguez died before they could get her inside.
Autopsy results found she died of natural causes. Rodriguez's baby was delivered in an emergency cesarean section and is currently in intensive care, as of Wednesday night.
Her family believes Joanne would still be alive if she had received the urgent care she needed. "If they would have came here better trained, with all their equipment, oxygen on time, yes, she would have been maybe in the hospital still, but alive," said Morales.
The two medics are currently off from work while the investigation is being done. The Fire Department directed all EMS personnel to check every vehicle in the fleet for this issue.