Yesterday the charges against FDNY EMT Melissa Jackson were dropped after FDNY BEMS Chief of the Department Abdou Nahmod reversed the department’s position that she violated their policies.
Jackson was with her boyfriend Jason Green, also a FDNY EMS dispatcher, getting coffee in the Au Bon Pain located at FDNY Headquarters in Brooklyn during December of 2009. They were approached by staff asking them to help co-worker Eutisha Rennix who was in the back of the store having an asthma attack. Jackson did call the dispatch center she worked at for an ambulance, but then the couple left the store. Rennix, who was six months pregnant, died from that medical emergency. In a separate incident with reportedly no connection, Jason Green was shot and killed outside a Manhattan nightclub in June 2010.
It’s important to understand a bit of timeline here. When Jackson failed to act in December of 2009, it was Chief John Perruggia who was in charge of the department. Chief Nahmod did not take that position until January of 2011 after Peruggia was the scapegoat by city officials for Snowmagedon. Guess where Nahmod came from in the department?
Communications. The very division that Nahmod had been in charge of back in December of 2009 when Jackson
failed chose not to act. Technically, she reported to him. Whether this change of mind is because he was protecting one of his own or because he felt pressure from higher up to squash the case is all a matter of pure speculation, but the reasoning he offered of a policy only applying to ambulance riding personnel is utterly flawed. What’s worse yet is I have heard of no action or plan of action to remedy that issue.
I have to be honest, this is a very surprising outcome. I really thought, actually I still think, it’s a clear case of a failure to act. Now it’s okay for FDNY personnel who are in uniform and in their primary operating area, creating an expectation of action to an emergency for the citizens they supposedly serve, to ignore citizens in distress.
Allow me to be perfectly clear here about something, just because she was a dispatcher does not mean she was not an EMT or, for that matter, a decent human. The fact is that she was indeed an EMT and decided to walk away instead of walking towards the emergency, which is at the foundation the very job she was on duty to perform. Had she done that, even without equipment, and done everything she could have for Eutisha Rennix as she gasped for breath then there wouldn’t be an issue.
Apparently duty to act, in all forms in New York State, is a myth.
To complicate matters, another FDNY EMS dispatcher is being blamed for a four minute lag in dispatching an ambulance that ended in the death of 4-year old Ariel Russo who had been struck by an SUV. Although there are claims that the problem is actually a technological glitch, the scapegoat is once again someone working in EMS.
Do you want to know what the really horrible thing is about this whole situation? Yes, Rennix died along with her unborn child and that is a truly tragic occurrence, but even had Jackson and Greene acted like decent human beings and gone to her there is no guarantee the outcome would have been any different. The truly horrible thing is that this ruins the hard work, efforts, and reputation of ALL EMS providers who day in and day out go above and beyond for their patients and their partners. All they had to do was go back there and hold her hand until the ambulance came, but they couldn’t be bothered to do that so now we ALL have to pay for their lack of compassion and for FDNY BEMS poor leadership.
Stuff like this makes me weep for the future of the profession and fear for the safety of myself and loved ones if we ever need to dial those three magic numbers….