CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — Two paramedics with the Clearwater Fire & Rescue Department were suspended after a man they pronounced dead last week was found to be breathing.
The agency said two medics from Station 47 responded to a home in an unincorporated area of Pinellas County Wednesday morning after Thomas Maxwell reportedly suffered cardiac arrest.
“His lips were blue and he was cold but I was doing CPR, and my friend was there and she was doing chest compressions,” said his daughter, Phebe Maxwell told WFLA. “His chest was going up and down and he was making noises, so his lungs were working.”
When the medics arrived, Phebe said they quickly checked her dad’s wrist for a pulse and told them he was gone.
“I’m like ‘He’s still breathing!'” Phebe recalled. “He’s like ‘No ma’am, he’s gone, those are just his body releasing gases.'”
After the medics left, a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputy went to the home to investigate Maxwell’s “death” and noticed he was still breathing.
Largo Fire Rescue crews were then called to the home and Maxwell was rushed to the hospital.
“Upon notification of this incident, we immediately removed both fire medics from their normal duties and discontinued their abilities to provide patient care, in conjunction with the county’s medical director,” Clearwater Fire Chief Scott Ehlers said in a statement to News Channel 8.
The two medics who initially responded to the call were placed on administrative duty and were clinically suspended by the Pinellas County EMS Medical Director’s Office. Both the medical director’s office and Clearwater Fire & Rescue are looking into the incident.
“On behalf of the city, I apologize for the actions and the inactions of our crew during this incident,” Chief Ehlers said. “We have strict policies and procedures in place that were not followed, according to our preliminary review. These two did not perform to the standard of care that our citizens expect and deserve.”
About 28 minutes elapsed between the initial call and Largo medics’ arrival, according to Clearwater Fire & Rescue.
As of Monday, Phebe said her dad was still in intensive care and was seeing a speech therapist for slowed speech. She worries he may suffer long-term effects from the incident.
“I’m frustrated, hurt and mad. I don’t know what this is going to do to my dad. I don’t know what kind of life he’s going to have now,” Phebe said.