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Woman has heart attack, says rescuers didn't believe her

Fire Department launches internal investigation

Michelle Smith

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Last month, Michelle Smith had a heart attack at her home, but she said when rescuers arrived, they didn't believe her.

Smith is a medical technician. She said when she woke up July 25, she knew something was wrong and thought she was having a heart attack. Her husband called 911.

When rescuers from the fire station in Oceanway arrived, Smith said, all they did was ask questions and take her blood pressure.

She said it seemed they didn't believe she was having a heart attack.

"They were very argumentative," Smith said. "One, I told her I had diarrhea and vomiting, and she said maybe you are having indigestion. And I thought, 'I just want you to shut up get me some oxygen, get me help and let's get out of here because I am having difficulty breathing and focusing.'"

Smith said it got much worse. She said the rescuers did not bring any oxygen or a portable EKG into the house, even though the paperwork shows they were responding to a call about chest pain.

Smith said what happened next is still hard to believe.

"They made me walk out of my bedroom and down 16 stairs and two flights," she said. "Actually, I did not walk. I scooted on my bottom because I could not stand up to walk; I was too dizzy."

Smith said when she got downstairs, she had to climb onto the gurney herself. Rescuers wheeled her outside and into the rescue unit, then ran an EKG.

"It showed that I was having a heart attack," Smith said.

She said that's when rescuers got to work and rushed her to the hospital.

"If they done the EKG in my room, they would have saw I was having a heart attack and we would not have wasted 22 minutes," Smith said. "We wasted 22 minutes questioning me and I don't know how many getting down the stairs to get into the truck."

When Channel 4 went to the fire station, firefighters closed the doors as soon as the cameras came out.

A spokesman from the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department did comment, but because of privacy laws, the department can't be specific about this case.

"Keep in mind that the men and women of this department to the tune of 100,000 calls routinely deliver that, which is expected and demand it," JFRD spokesman Tom Francis said. "That does not mean that we would not take on accusation one account of something being inferior that we would take that seriously, and we do, which is why in this particular scenario we have launched an internal investigation and our quality improvement office is already looking into this."

Smith's husband wrote a letter to the Fire Department and the mayor complaining about what happened.

"I want to see this unit apologize to me or anyone else that they have done this to," Smith said. "I want to see that the (emergency medical technicians) are better trained."

Smith said she is up and getting around now and is scheduled to go to a cardiologist Wednesday.


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