HOUSTON (FOX 26) - When your loved one needs an ambulance, 17 minutes is an excruciatingly long time to wait. Knowing that an ambulance was possibly 4 minutes away has to be heartbreaking.
"For 14 minutes the heart stopped," Kofing Jumah says about her husband's heart attack on February 28th. "But 5 minutes, no blood or oxygen to the brain. So in 5 minutes it happened."
Jumah says it was 12:30 a.m. Her husband, Rezan Ahmed, was driving when he suddenly became ill and pulled off the road. Harris County Sheriff's Office deputies came up on the scene and, according to the county's records, radioed for an ambulance immediately. But 6 minutes ticked off the clock before Harris County 9-1-1 called Cypress Creek Dispatch.
"Fry Road and Franz," the 9-1-1 operator said at 12:36 a.m. "A medical emergency. A man passing out."
Fry and Franz is the territory of Harris County Emergency Services Department 48. HCESD 48 had an ambulance on its way from Station 3, at 1773 Westgreen in Katy, by 12:37 a.m. The driving distance was just over 4 miles. The travel time 10 minutes. The ambulance arrived at 12:47 a.m.
But Westlake EMS at 19636 Saums Road, Houston, was right around the corner from the the scene.
"I would say our response time would have been 3 to 4 minutes at the most," Westlake Chief Mark Palmer told Fox26.
Palmer says he had 2 ambulances and a full staff at his station that night. But Cypress Creek followed proper protocol.
"With the information I have, I see no negligence. I see a glitch in the system," Chief Palmer said. "The 911 operator said they needed EMS at Fry and Franz. Com Center put it in. The computer generated who it went to, and there was no delay as far as I have found."
Palmer says Westlake and HCESD 48 work together as one, and this is an unusual, albeit, very unfortunate situation.
For HCESD 48's part, Chief Jeffrey Hevey said they did all that they could from their end. They would have sent an ambulance from their Station #4, which would have been a little closer, but Station 4's ambulance was already on a call.
Palmer says he and Cheif Hevey will be meeting Thursday.
"We were supposed to discuss joint training between our two departments. Like I've said, we're one big happy family, usually," Palmer said. "But tomorrow I'm sure the topic will be 'How can we serve our residents a little bit better?'"
Chief Palmer does have advice for residents. He said know who your fire department is, so if you ever need to call 911, you can tell them which department you want dispatched.
Sadly, not even this advice would have helped Jumah or her husband, though. When deputies rolled up on the scene, they called for the ambulance, so Jumah didn't need to.
Now 49-year-old Ahmed, the father of 2 children, has been in a coma, on life support, for 10 days. According to Jumah, doctors say Ahmed is brain dead, and will pass if life support is removed. No one will ever know how things would be different if medics had gotten to him sooner, but Jumah will be wondering forever.