'It is not acceptable to die like that': Austin medic gives painful testimony of snowstorm
Austin EMS Association President Selena Xie posted a letter on social media describing the "humanitarian crisis" she witnessed on the job
San Antonio Express-News
AUSTIN, Texas — If you want to understand how the snowstorm truly was a disaster, you must read this heartbreaking testimony from Selena Xie, medic and president of the Austin EMS Association.
On Tuesday, Xie shared her letter that left many on social media shocked and devastated. The medic wrote on Austin EMS Association's Facebook page that the testimony is only the tip of the iceberg, and should prove those naysayers who say the storm was just a "minor inconvenience" wrong.
In fact, she said it was possibly the worst shifts some medics ever experienced.
Xie begins the letter with what it was like trying to respond to emergency calls early Monday, a day where many Texans didn't have power due to the rare Valentine's Day snowfall.
"While our shift started at 10 am, the ambulance had been t-boned by a vehicle that lost control," she stated. "We had heard of crews holding over for over 4 hours working over 28 hours straight, with no rest."
The medic said their first call was to help someone who was reliant on his oxygen concentrator to live. He had no power and his levels were dropping without it, Xie noted. The medics reached him hours later after getting stuck in the snow. The patient's levels were half of what is normal, Xie said.
On her second call, Xie recalls a bone cancer patient in agonizing pain because he couldn't get his pain medication refilled due to icy road conditions. Xie's third was possibly the most heartbreaking, as she told a story of a man who was expected to die at home comfortably surrounded by his loved ones. The power going out didn't allow that.
"When his oxygen, that was making him comfortable, went out, he started making awful grunting sounds. It is not acceptable to die like that, in agony," Xie said. "We had no other options at the time than to take the person to the hospital to keep him comfortable, but not before we let his wife cry against his chest for 5 minutes, which was all we felt comfortable sparing at the time."
Throughout the letter, Xie told more horrifying details of an overdose and carbon monoxide calls. She explained how the power outage affected Austin's methadone and dialysis clinics. Many people couldn't receive dialysis, and only could if they were "close to dying." The medic described how many EMS crews were stranded at work or asked to work back-to-back 2 4/7 shifts.
If that doesn't open your eyes to the horrific scenes from the snowstorm, Xie shared how she told someone to drive their relative's body to a funeral home because there were no resources to take the body away at that time. She said she cried for an hour after that phone call, writing that it wasn't the best advice to give but the best she could do considering the circumstances.
"It was only Wednesday, and we would continue to see people resort to illicit drugs to stave off withdrawals from methadone clinics closing, people dying from electrolyte imbalances from lack of dialysis, our only Level 2 trauma hospital evacuating patients and closing the doors to EMS, our only Level 1 hospital almost on the same verge," she concluded.
"It was and continues to be a humanitarian crisis and it is horrifying that there exists so much privilege that people can be blind to it."
You can read the full letter below:
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