On the worst day of his life, Bob Small discovered his wife of 44 years slumped over and unconscious in her chair at the San Juan airport.
Barb Small had suffered a heart attack while her spouse had stepped away to the restroom.
When Small suffered a heart attack March 7 at Luis MuÃ±oz MarÃn International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, no emergency medical personnel rushed to help her, no airport workers could administer CPR, and no one could immediately find a defibrillator, Bob Small said this afternoon.
Twenty minutes passed before paramedics arrived, and when they did, he said, their equipment was running low on power and they could do nothing for her.
To make matters worse, when a lone morgue employee arrived six hours later, Small said he had to help move her body to the stretcher from the floor, where she lay covered with an airline blanket.
“I don’t understand,” Small said. “This is not a third-world country.”
The story goes on to recount in awful detail the complete absence of any kind of emergency response from airport personnel, except for the kind assistance of some airline employees and passengers. It wasn’t clear from this original breaking story if the paramedics who eventually responded were based at the airport, but Small suspected they were from outside the airport zone and had drive in, park their truck, come through the security express lane, etc.
This is the airport authority’s official response, which is in a rather weird format courtesy of Scribd. My husband David thinks it’s because the statement was faxed to the Trib, and this is the quickest way they could recast it in web-readable format.
This statement doesn’t really explain who was responsible for coordinating emergency responses at San Juan Airport; whether it gets routed to the right office if 911 or *999 is called, or whether an airline person should have called it in via a walkie talkie, or via an airport courtesy phone. It sounds like the ball was dropped somehow.
I could picture the scene; we’ve been through SJU before, and frankly, it seemed so badly laid out and chaotic that Mr. Small’s comment about “this is not a third-world country,” made me shake my head sadly. Because it is a different experience traveling through San Juan, and not a little jarring until you get used to it – and the Smalls were certainly used to it, as they were avid cruise passengers and must have gone via Puerto Rico on many occasions. I’m glad to read that a local lawmaker plans to bring the issue up before the island’s Senate Public Safety Committee.
I don’t understand why no one responded to Mr Small’s calls for help; the updated version of the story today adds the detail that he screamed out for an “AED,” an automated external defibrillator. I don’t understand why the hapless ambulance guys didn’t transport Mr Small and his wife’s body to the nearest hospital so that she could be placed in the morgue. And I don’t understand why no one from the airport authority came to talk to Mr Small and offer assistance and… just be with him as he waited all those hours.
But I will be you that ultimately the reason will turn out to be that it was the weekend.