Latanya Thornton was having a bad day. She was 37 weeks pregnant when a driver ran a red light and hit her car, risking the life of her unborn child. First responders requested an ambulance after the local fire department arrived, but it took over an hour for the emergency vehicle to arrive. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the incident shows that catching a ride on an ambulance can be harder than you think.
Emerging from the Crash
It all started with a three-car crash at an intersection in Richmond, Virginia. Thornton was driving with her young children when the accident occured.
Shannon Ronaldson was nearby when the accident occurred. She says she was driving for GrubHub at the time and decided to pull over to help Thornton and her family.
“I used to be a medical assistant, and I was told by my teacher back in 2009 that if you see an accident, you have to stop. And that’s just the type of person I am,” Ronaldson said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, she’s pregnant.’ So I stopped the car and ran across without even looking.”
She waited with Thornton and her family until help arrived while broadcasting the scene on Facebook Live. Thornton’s mother and boyfriend rushed to the accident after hearing what happened.
Ronaldson says the Richmond Fire Department arrived within about seven minutes, but that was just the start of their problems.
The fire department requested an ambulance, but it took longer than expected.
Ronaldson and Thornton’s mother considered driving her to the hospital themselves, but they worried they may further injure her and her unborn child in the process.
“They’re trying to get an ambulance from Chesterfield because no one is available. This is not OK, and there needs to be light to the situation,” Ronaldson said in the video.
Their fears intensified after Thornton started complaining of neck pain.
“I had her boyfriend help guide her down and lay on me because she kept saying her neck was hurting and that’s all I was worried about is her neck hurting and she’s pregnant,” Ronaldson explained.
“Everything was hurting. Thank God Shannon was there because she definitely helped coach me to stay steady,” Thornton said.
About an hour went by before the ambulance finally arrived. Thornton was taken to the local hospital where she went into labor. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl on June 15th, even though her baby wasn’t due until July 4th.
What Went Wrong?
Statistics show that it usually takes on average between 14 and 16 minutes for an ambulance to arrive in most settings. Wait times may be longer depending on the time of day or the destination. Patients needing a ride in rural areas tend to wait longer than those in urban and suburban areas. Wait times usually exceed 16 minutes around 7 PM due to rush hour traffic. It can be even worse between 12 midnight and 2 AM, when it can take as long as 24 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
A spokesman for the Richmond Ambulance Authority said all eight vehicles were in use at the time of the accident, which caused the long wait time. They added that three ambulances were responding to “Priority 1” calls, which means the person’s injuries are considered life-threatening. Another five ambulances were already on the way to the hospital with patients in tow.
Due to low staffing rates, the RAA says it can only operate about half the number of ambulances the city needs during the day.
Thornton says she was told that her injuries didn’t meet the Priority 1 standard. “I was livid at this point, lying on hard ground,” she wrote. “I could not believe they had [me] out there for over an hour because of this accident.”
“I’m a taxpayer who never realized that I’m paying taxes for things that don’t matter,” Thornton told a local reporter after the ordeal. “Something has to be done.”
A spokesman from the Mayor’s Office sent out a statement responding to the incident:
“This should not have happened. We’re very concerned whenever a person in need of medical transport to the hospital does not receive it in a timely fashion. We’re thankful our fire and police departments were on the scene within minutes to render first aid and medical assistance until RAA arrived. Our first responding agencies will be meeting with RAA to determine what happened in this situation.”
Don’t assume an ambulance will show up right away the next time you call 9-1-1.