Two Virginia firefighters have been suspended for a heroic, split-second decision that saved a baby’s life.
Since the suspended firefighters saved her life, the little girl is in good health after a medical emergency last Saturday, Fox 5 DC reported. Brian Nunamaker called 911 after 18-month-old Lena suffered a seizure while he was running errands.
Two firefighters, Captain James Kelley and Sgt. Virgil Bloom responded, attempted to call for an ambulance without a response and, realizing more help was miles away, decided to turn their fire truck into an ad-hoc ambulance.
They took Lena to the hospital, 13 minutes after the 911 call came in, saving the baby’s life. But now Stafford County, which oversees the fire department where Kelley and Bloom work, has suspended the firefighters for violating a county policy that prohibits firefighters from transporting patients.
After his firefighters were suspended, Fire Chief Christopher Smith told ABC News he would’ve made the same decision, too.
“If I was in the same position, I would have done the exact same thing. We understand policy, we understand protocol, we understand operating guidelines, but they are just that. They’re guidelines.”
Nunamaker was on his way home after running errands, little Lena in tow, when she fell ill. He pulled over and realized she was having a seizure, so called 911; a passerby stopped to help. The baby’s condition then changed — she became limp but still had a pulse and was breathing. Before he knew it, the firefighters arrived.
“As a parent, you feel extremely helpless to be unable to assist the most important person in the world (your child) during such a time of emergency. Worst case scenarios run through your head while you are hoping for the best. The eternity of waiting for help to arrive was surprisingly non-existent in this situation. I was surprised at how quickly help had arrived in the form of a fire truck.”
Kelley, who is also a firefighter in D.C., said that when he arrived, he knew the nearest medic was up to 15 minutes away and the location provided was too vague. He also asked the city of Fredericksburg for mutual aid, but no one responded.
The men put Lena on oxygen in the fire truck and headed out; an ambulance finally responded while on route, but the suspended firefighters were closer to the hospital. They decided not to wait, Kelly recalled.
“I looked at my driver, without any hesitation, and I said, ‘Turn it around, we’re going to the hospital.'”
The suspended firefighters’ decision likely saved Lena’s life. At the hospital, the baby was diagnosed with paralysis on the left side of her body and had another seizure. But, she survived — thanks to the firefighters’ quick decision, dad Brian said.
“The neurologists … explained that timing is extremely important when reacting to seizures,” he explained. “My wife and I are extremely grateful for the assistance provided by the (firefighters), 911 operator, medical staff… and the passerby that stopped by to assist.”
But because of the policy violation, both firefighters have been suspended for a week. Kelley, a 20-year veteran, is on desk duty and said it’s “taken a toll” on him, the New York Daily News reported.
“It hurts. It’s not only hurting us, it’s hurting the citizens as well, because we’re not staffed enough all the time. It’s taken a toll on a lot of things.”
Chief Smith said that although the firefighters have been suspended, they haven’t been formally charged with wrongdoing; they also don’t know when they’re suspensions will end. As for the Nunamakers, they agree with the chief in saying that the firefighters shouldn’t have been suspended for making a split-second decision that saved their child’s life.
“My wife and I feel terrible for the fallout that has happened to these two gentlemen,” he said. “The actions of these men represent a dedication to their mission, and a deep concern of doing what is best for the people they are serving. In our eyes, they are heroes.”
What do you think? Are rules meant to be followed? Should these firefighters have been suspended? Or is the decision out of line? Sound off in the comments.
[Image via blurAZ/Shutterstock]