Two Virginia volunteer firefighters have been suspended for transporting an 18-month-old child in distress to the hospital in their fire engine.
Capt. James Kelley and Sgt. Virgil Bloom of the Falmouth Fire Station responded first to a call from a McDonald's of a child in need of medical assistance on Feb. 27, Firehouse reports. Kelley, the officer in charge, said the child was having a seizure and was blue from her chest to her head.
"I immediately told the driver to turn on the engine," Kelley said. "This child was in dire need of a hospital."
Kelley estimated it would take a medic unit 10 to 15 minutes to become available, after hearing the nearest one call in from their current position over the radio before he arrived at the McDonald's.
He called the medic unit to find out its location but did not receive a response. After his second request, it answered with a vague position and direction.
"That caused major chaos," Kelley said.
Kelley then requested aid from the city of Fredericksburg, which was never dispatched.
He then made the call to transport the child to the hospital in the fire engine.
"Considering all the factors -- the presentation of the child, the unknown location of the medic unit, and the distance to the hospital -- I felt it was in the patient's best interest to transport immediately," Kelley wrote in a statement provided to the county.
Kelley denied the request of an ambulance to meet him at the Falmouth Station because he was already on the way to the hospital.
The fire engine is licensed as a “non-transport unit,” according to Kelley, because it does not have proper restraints or the medications of an ambulance.
The child was placed on oxygen in the fire engine and within 13 minutes of when the call was received was in a trauma room at the hospital. Kelley said she was paralyzed on the entire left side of her body when they arrived at the hospital. The girl survived and is back at home with her family.
Kelley and Bloom have been suspended for their actions.
"A potential regulatory compliance issue is under review by the Fire and Rescue Department and the Virginia Department of Health. Therefore, we are unable to comment on this issue,” A Stafford County Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said in a statement to WTTG.
The girl’s father, Brian Nunamaker, is thankful for the firefighters' quick decisions and upset over the treatment they are receiving.
"My wife and I feel terrible for the fallout that has happened to these two gentlemen," Nunamaker said in a statement to WTTG. "They simply had the best interests for our daughter's care in mind. We are extremely thankful they made the decisions they did, and that our daughter is back home with us doing well. 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.”