Readers Write: Ambulance’s slow response may have cost a life

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On Oct. 21, my wife Neila died under circumstances which no one living in this county or town should have to endure.

At 4:37 a.m. on that day, I placed a call to 911 as I have done several times in the past for the same reason.  My wife was, once again, having great difficulty breathing.  She had been long ago diagnosed with flash pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure. 

Preceded by two officers, an ambulance would always arrive in a timely manner, volunteer personnel would check her vitals, attach a face mask to administer oxygen and then rush her to the hospital where she would be treated to get her breathing back to normal and, after being admitted, would spend a period of time after which she would return home.

This particular day was disturbingly different.  

As usual, two officers arrived quickly, only six minutes after my call. We waited together for the arrival of the ambulance. I called again. It was on its way.

However, I was told that no Port Washington ambulance was available and a Nassau County unit was dispatched instead. My worry increased. This had never happened before and my wife’s breathing grew more shallow as the three of us waited for help.

It gets worse.  The ambulance had a driver and no other personnel. The driver, who identified herself as an EMT, helped the two officers lift my wife from the floor of the entrance hall in our apartment and managed to get her into the back of the ambulance. 

At this point, I have no idea if she was still breathing.

I followed the ambulance to the hospital, which I always did in these circumstances. When I entered the ER, an attendant was administering CPR.  She was pronounced dead at 6:07 a.m.

I write this letter not to evoke sympathy. Everyone experiences loss. I write because the system somehow failed. Waiting 48 minutes for help is not only unacceptable it can be tragic, as it was in this case.  It should also be noted that my letter of Nov. 20 to the Nassau County supervisor has gone unanswered. 

Mayor Bob Weitzner of Port Washington North is doing his best to make sure that changes are made to ensure that this never happens again to any resident of Port Washington or Nassau County. 

I will pursue this until that happens and hope the voices of our residents will make change a reality.

Martin Farber

Port Washington 

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