BY LORIEN MACENULTY
A medical emergency interrupted the studies of late-night Cowles Library frequenters around 9:30 pm yesterday. A Drake junior, sitting alone having just entered the library basement, clutched her right side in pain and struggled to call for help, bystanders said. EMTs entered the foyer where she sat about 20 minutes after the initial call. The woman requested to remain anonymous in providing information to the Times-Delphic.
“I just kept hearing her make noises and crying, so I tapped my friend and I told her, ‘hey, I think there’s something wrong with the girl,’” said Kaysha Murphy, an active bystander at the scene. “[My friend] went over and she asked her. She said she had excruciating pain in her sides and hip.”
Murphy said three separate people called public safety, who showed up shortly after the call was made. The official asked her for information as they waited for medical aid. The ambulance rolled up 28th St., red, blue and yellow lights blaring, to access Cowles and take the Drake junior to the requested hospital.
The ailing student’s boyfriend, who for privacy provided information anonymously, accompanied her to the hospital and said she was doing alright. Medical staff was looking for “standard things for lower abdominal pain, like appendicitis.” Both her grandmother and mother, who live in Indianola, drove to meet her at the hospital and offer support.
A public safety officer on the scene said in response that this was a “routine medical call,” and that he could not release more information. Director of Public Safety Scott Law said his officials respond to anywhere from six to 12 medical calls a week, a third of which he estimates end up in the hospital. Student bystanders said the timeliness of the response was called into question.
“I just feel like public safety should not take that long,” said Murphy. “That was an emergency. What if she had a seizure or something else?”
The ailing student said she did not find public safety to be delayed in responding to the emergency, according to her boyfriend. The patrol officer stationed in Cowles was the first to show up to the scene and make a cursory assessment. Law said that based on statistical analyses of their methods, public safety usually responds to an emergency in 1.5 to two minutes.
Law said the first thing public safety does is make an assessment and decide to call an ambulance after performing that assessment.
“We don’t immediately call for an ambulance unless an ambulance is required,” Law said.
Law said in his experience, Des Moines Fire Rescue, the first medical responders to an emergency, take approximately five minutes to arrive at the scene. In the case of last night’s Cowles emergency, the response must have been delayed, since students said over 20 minutes elapsed between the time public safety was called and when medical professionals arrived.