Updated October 9, 2012, 9:44. a.m.
By Ann-Marie Adams — Op-Ed
On a crisp October night four years ago today, my mother dialed 911. She had a heart attack. So she picked up her small, pink phone and dialed the three digits necessary to signal for help and possibly save her life.
A Hartford police dispatcher reportedly received the call at 8: 25 p.m. But my mother’s phone showed she had to dial again at about 8:45 p.m.
At about 8:55 p.m., a dispatcher called my mother’s phone and sent an officer to the scene at Sands Apartment on Main Street. Supposedly, the officer was dispatched to the scene to ensure that the door to my mother’s apartment was closed after the Emergency Medical Service ambulance rushed her to St. Francis Hospital. EMS took over from the fire department crew that arrived four minutes after her initial call, according to reports. Between the HPD, the Fire Department, EMS and the Sands’ Management team, something precious was lost: her voice.
And what happened in room 713 on the seventh floor of the Sands Apartment building still remains a mystery. However, a bloodied T-shirt, specks of blood on the floor of a patient suffering from a supposed heart attack and was being treated by first responders cannot be ignored. But here’s what is not a mystery: my mother and best friend died that night.
My mother is not the only victim of the allegedly crude and uncaring behavior from city workers: the Hartford Police Department, the Fire Department, the EMS that serves North Hartford, or the Meriden-based Carabetta Management, now under a FBI investigation, that manages apartment building. All seemingly colluded to silence forever a fiercely independent, 69-year-old woman who relished her life.
A faithful believer in the Nutmeg Big Brothers/Big Sisters’ Foster Grandparent Program, my mother had perfect attendance at her job, which included providing personal guidance to at-risk children in the North End. She was such a dedicated and gentle volunteer, she received recognition from the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation for civic engagement because she was “demonstrating the best of the American spirit.” She hung her certificate on her wall of many achievements, next to a framed picture of me–another special accomplishment.
At 69, circumstantial evidence showed she had at least another decade ahead of her. Yet, she died while waiting for help. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances of her health and life was. The fact remains the same. City residents pay into these services with hope that when they need medical attention, there will be a quick response with care.
The city’s medical emergency system, in this case, failed. And there’s evidence of this fact all around us.
Earlier this year, Mayor Pedro Segarra, Chief Edward Casares and the Commission on Aging implemented the Hartford-Are-You-OK Program, a free computerized telephone reassurance service designed for citizens 65 years and older. The program is already in 45 states and provides a daily call to those who live alone. The program was in memory of Roberta L. Jones, a lifelong resident of Hartford and the first African American State Marshal. Jones died in August. She was 68. Unlike my mother, Jones died at 68 surrounded by her family.
My family feels robbed of that opportunity Jones and her family had. And that was always my fear of mine when my mother decided to live in the city.
In Hartford, its unclear how many of the 11,825 people 65 and older live alone like my mother. But the program is a welcome service for the the 40 million U.S. residents over 65.
My family and I hope that for the sake of those residents in Hartford, there is a stronger emergency system in place to support the ‘Are You OK’ program for the elderly. Their golden life should not end because of people who lack empathy. It’s now time to turn a slogan (Hartford Cares) into reality by solving this mystery.
My mother’s death, and that of others that go unreported in Hartford, should not be in vain. She gave to the city. Now, it’s time for the city to give her family what she deserved: answers.
Until then, I will be her voice.
Editor’s Note: The author decided to leave her mother’s name out of this article. However, details are mentioned to help authorities identify the victim.