When my grandmother fainted in front of Gardena Medical Plaza last Wednesday afternoon, I never would have guessed the chain of events that would soon follow causing me to say to you today that 911 is still a joke.
Los Angeles County’s Access Paratransit service was the program that I likened to ‘support for the support,’ meaning that when I was unable to take my grandmother to the doctor’s for her doctor’s appointment, she could use the County’s paratransit federally mandated transportation service for persons with disabilities who cannot use public transportation. But it had since failed to live up to my expectations of on time pick-ups and arrivals, safe drivers, and friendly and courteous customer service, so I have since decided to start taking my grandmother to all of her doctor’s appointments. And it’s a good thing that I did. Here’s why.
On Wednesday, March 25th when I took my grandmother to her regularly scheduled doctor’s appointment at the Gardena Medical Plaza, it turns out that her blood sugar was over 500 and her doctor was uncomfortable letting her go home until it came down. To make it come down, he gave her two doses of insulin. Well in between the time I was waiting for my grandmother to be released, my car was parked in front of the medical plaza in a space identified as being for the first floor pharmacy only. Obviously, I was not going to the pharmacy but it was the closest parking space I could find to the front so that my grandmother who happens to be suffering from a bad case of gout in both legs wouldn’t have to walk so far to get to the car. So I parked there using my grandmother’s handicap placard, which exempts me from having to move, or so I thought. Shortly after returning to my car to wait for my grandmother, the pharmacy owner comes over to my car and tells me that I have to move my car because the space I am in is for the first floor pharmacy only. I explained to him that I had my handicap placard displayed exempting me and that my elderly grandmother can’t walk too far and I prefer to be close to the front of the plaza. He said he’d have me towed. I proceeded to then move my car to the back of the parking lot.
Soon thereafter I went upstairs to check on my grandmother and speak with her doctor who then informed me that her sugar was at 360 and he felt comfortable with letting her go home. I said okay, not knowing much about blood sugar levels and trusting him. So my grandmother and I proceed to leave the doctor’s office. When we get downstairs, I tell her to wait for me in front while I bring the car around. It’s about this time I notice a car in the same space I was in with a handicap placard displayed. I look inside the pharmacy, notice that there is no one in there, call attention to the car to the pharmacist, and ask him if he’s going to have that car towed as well. He wasn’t, I knew it, he knew it.
Anyway, as I am bringing the car around the front I am looking at my grandmother who is leaning on her walker and I notice that she just doesn’t look right. Before I know it, her eyes rolled backward and she started to fall. I jumped out of the car just in time and caught her.
By then my stomach dropped and I was crying and screaming for help in front of a medical plaza full of doctors and nurses that’s next door to a hospital. The only people who came to my aid were a group of medical students from Everest College, which happened to have a campus located on the second floor of the plaza. They called 911 for me, ran upstairs, and got my grandmother’s doctor because by then I was a nervous wreck holding my grandmother’s limp body not understanding what was happening to her.
I should also note that the same pharmacist that made me move my car, heard all of the commotion and came outside to see me holding my unconscious grandmother.
It seemed like an eternity before I heard sirens headed in our direction. And here’s why I say 911 is a joke.
When the Los Angeles County Paramedics arrived on the scene instead of coming over to me and grandmother, I watched them go over to the Everest College students wherein an officer insulted and berated the students, who were all African-American females. The officer insisted that they were not needed and were a part of the problem, even referring to them and me as “you people are unbelievable,” after I tried to explain that they had helped me and the focus should be on my grandmother. By then those same sista’s let him have it, and I don’t blame them. I would have too. After which he just walked away. Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, a private ambulance from McCormick Ambulance arrived but was in no apparent rush to get to me and my grandmother and took their sweet (fill-in-the-blank) time getting out of the ambulance. Even though I was yelling for them to put a move on it and to act like there’s an emergency. And I wasn’t alone in doing this. By then a small crowd had gathered and we all watched how the paramedics just took their time coming to the aid of my grandmother.
While my focus was on my grandmother, I knew what I had to do. As soon as she was in the care of the paramedics, I ran to my car and started taking names and numbers. The paramedics saw what I was doing and sent their chief over to me who said that if I had a complaint that I could take it up with him, I said I’d take it up with his boss’s boss. He gave me a look like, yeah right. After my grandmother was in the ambulance, I called Gardena City Councilman Steve Bradford and explained the situation, who in turn had the City Manager call me who I said I’d call back after my grandmother was admitted into the hospital. Come again chief.
Believe it or not, even though we were next door to Gardena Memorial Hospital, there was still a conversation about what hospital to transport her too. Now that’s unbelievable.
After the McCormick’s paramedics took my grandmother into the emergency room at Gardena Memorial Hospital, I overheard one of them say, “that black bitch is taking our names and badge numbers like we’re supposed to jump out of the ambulance because it’s her grandmother.” I must have startled him when I said, “you’re (fill-in-the-blank) right I expect you to jump out of the (fill-in-the-blank) ambulance!” He didn’t know I was behind him.
Well, little did I know back at the medical plaza my grandmother’s doctor, the same doctor who needs to be checking whether he’s up to date on his malpractice insurance went to the president of Everest College and complained about the behavior of the students who had helped me. Why? Because he came downstairs on the tail end of everything and wasn’t privy to the instigating comments made by the Los Angeles County Paramedic. All he saw was a group of Black girls telling off the paramedic so naturally, it’s all the Black girl’s fault, right? Wrong.
Flash forward to today and my grandmother is back at home after a brief stay in the hospital and for that, I am grateful. And while my grandmother is a Jehovah’s Witness and doesn’t believing in taking legal action against those who have done her wrong, I am not and I do, especially when that wrongdoing is racially motivated and endangers the life of my grandmother.
It’s a shame that in a life or death situation, the first responders in our community can’t see past their own racism to serve the community. I was beside myself when my grandmother fainted and had it not been for the quick actions of the Everest College students my grandmother might not be here with me today and I am eternally grateful for them. It’s a testament to the education that they are receiving. Those young ladies could have been anywhere in the world, but they were at a school trying to get an education that could lead to a medical career, maybe even one as a paramedic. How do you think those comments made them feel after all they had done? Instead of insulting those students, the Los Angeles County Paramedics should have been thanking them for their help on the scene before they could arrive to take over. As for the McCormick Ambulance paramedics, words can’t describe my anger at their behavior.
I applaud the students at Everest College who were there to help me and in the end, it’s my opinion of their actions that matters because I was the one who needed the help with my grandmother. What the paramedics and my grandmothers soon to be ex-doctor think is as irrelevant as the handicap placard I displayed in my car while parked in front of the medical plaza when I was asked to move my car.
I was never under the assumption that race relations were all good in America after the election of President Barack Obama, but what happened last Wednesday only confirmed for me that there is still much work to be done in our communities. In life and death situations, our lives should matter to the first responders in our community, not the color of our skin. And people have got to stop looking at the color of our skin and assuming who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong, judging a book by its cover. Everyone but those African-American female students was in the wrong beginning with the pharmacy owner who made me move my car, the doctor who gave my grandmother too much insulin, ending with the racist Los Angeles County and McCormick Ambulance paramedics.
Had this story made the evening news, you’d never have known that part of the story. It would have went something like this.
“In an apparent emergency situation black medical students at a local vocational college in Gardena attacked a Los Angeles County Paramedic who was trying to respond to the situation…”
This is why I say that 911 is still a joke.