There was recently an incident at the Twin Cities Airport, Minnesota that was covered by the StarTribune yesterday with the headline EMT removed dying woman down aisle of crowded plane. In the course of the article one passenger, identified as Art Endress who is a research engineer at Southern Methodist University, complained that the “EMT was out of line” by dragging an unresponsive patient down the aisle of the airplane while she was supposedly (according to him) naked from the waist down. The article further cites another passenger, Dave Sampseli, refuting Endress‘s account. It also includes a description of the removal using a tarp like stretcher that somewhat covered the patient.
Let’s be clear here, there is no evidence of an impropriety by the emergency crew whatsoever. The removal technique is common in confined space rescue, sometimes referred to as a Fireman’s Drag or a Blanket Drag. There are technical illustrations in EMT text books of the exact same thing and plenty on Google Images. Let us also be clear that while protecting a patient’s modesty and privacy is important, that is not as high a priority as resuscitation. As EMTs and Paramedics we understand that resuscitation requires room to properly be positioned and give the patient the best chance at possible survival (still only 8-10%).
Yesterday Business Insider published an article titled Paramedics are under fire for their handling of a dying woman on an American Airlines flight by Benjamin Zhang who is their Senior Transportation Reporter. There is quite literally no new information and the ONLY person cited as complaining is Art Endress from the original article.
So let’s clear up a few things about that out-of-place and salaciously headlined article. First, the EMTs/Paramedics are not “under fire” but have been criticized by someone who DOES NOT KNOW WHAT THEY DO in one article in another paper which offered multiple sources contradicting that sole criticism. Secondly the woman wasn’t “dying” but she was DEAD which is the only time you start resuscitation efforts. Finally this has NOTHING to do with “Transportation” or the BUSINESS of “Transportation” other than the fact it happened on an airline. But hey… I know a good salacious headline when I see one (heck, I’ve written some myself)… and this one is certainly paying off for Benjamin Zhang and Business Insider…
Personally, I think that the majority of those views aren’t from an outraged public or business leaders. The majority of those views are probably from EMTs/Paramedics who want to read about their profession and the attacks it is coming under from unqualified witnesses (who have been countered) and uninformed journalists on a boring beat when no one is getting physically assaulted or ejected. The problem is there is some insinuation the EMTs/Paramedics have done something wrong, when all the reported facts equate to everything being done right.
***UPDATED 14:20: Justin Schorr, The Happy Medic, has posted a response including what an actual aircraft EMS operation entails. Justin has experience in this sort of thing, his explanation is thorough and clear enough that even a Transportation Journalist could have understood it… if only they had asked.***
This is why I have long insisted we, as both agencies and a profession, be equipped and prepared to tell our own story. Sadly I see EMS-centric Facebook pages sharing the stuff above, but not our own versions (assuming one exists) to set the record straight and help craft the public perception.
Maybe then people like Art Endress wouldn’t be so easily scarred and critical by the types of things we have to see and do in order to provide that sliver of hope for life.
To that end, thank you to American Airlines, the Twin Cities Airport, and Allina Health for standing by their EMTs and Paramedics who from all accounts with the exception of one did the right thing.