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Bite puts fear of infection into Boston EMT

“Absolute nightmare” for O’Brien as he waits for alleged assailant to consent to blood test

By O’Ryan Johnson
Boston Herald

BOSTON, Mass. A Boston EMT is living an “absolute nightmare” after he was bitten deep in his left hand — allegedly by a drunken, combative Florida woman in a Hub hotel — leaving the medic wondering whether he has been exposed to dangerous pathogens.

The EMT, Tony O’Brien, who works a truck in Charlestown, said that because of red tape he may not even find out what he’s been exposed to since the woman who bit him must first agree to a blood test — and medical authorities won’t tell him whether she’s done that.

“It’s terrifying,” O’Brien said last night, moments after leaving Massachusetts General Hospital with no answer yet as to whether the woman would take a test. “It’s an absolute nightmare. There’s no way I can know if I’m going to get HIV, hepatitis, or any other thing.”

The attack happened about 9:40 p.m. Wednesday, when O’Brien and his partner were called to the eighth floor of a Beacon Hill hotel “to assist a woman who was found in the hallway under the influence of something,” police said.

The woman was later identified as Laura Elizabeth Bell, 28, of Jacksonville, Fla., cops said.

“O’Brien stated the woman was sitting on the floor and he could immediately smell the odor of alcohol emanating from her,” police wrote in their report. “O’Brien approached Bell and attempted to assist her however she suddenly became out of control and attacked him. O’Brien stated Bell scratched his neck and bit him in the hand which drew blood.”

According to the report there was a “large bite mark” on his left hand, long scratches running from behind his ear and down his neck, as well as a scratch under his eye.

Bell was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where police described her as “combative and erratic” and were forced to place her in restraints.

She will be summonsed to Boston Municipal Court to face charges for assault and battery on a public employee, police said.

A woman reached at a telephone number listed for Bell, and who identified herself as Bell, said she did not remember the attack.

“I was drinking,” she said. “I have to go. Goodbye.”

Police said they spoke to the manager at the hotel where the incident took place about why Bell was there.

“He stated Bell was not a guest at the hotel and was not sure why she was on the property,” police said.

Detectives later learned she was registered at a Back Bay hotel where she was expected to stay until next week, police said.

The charge of assaulting an EMT carries a maximum sentence of two and a half years in jail if convicted.

O’Brien said ambulance crews are routinely assaulted while responding to drunk and disorderly calls.

“This is not an EMS call, this is a police call,” he said. “We’ve been fighting this for years. ... We’re assaulted daily. We don’t write it up, generally. It’s getting to a point where something is going to have to be done.”

©2014 the Boston Herald