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Welcome to the Broken-Promise Land

Another Perspective


Bryan Bledsoe | | Wednesday, June 13, 2007

As I reflect on my almost five decades on this earth, there are many things I am glad to have been a part of. Of these, two are particularly close to my heart: scouting and my EMS work in my home town of Fort Worth, Texas.

I loved the Boy Scouts, although being a Boy Scout during the anti-war movement of the late 1960s and early 70s was sometimes a problem. Some of the best times of my life occurred at Scout camps and retreats; I even stayed in and received my Eagle Scout award after many of my friends had quit because being a Scout was no longer popular.

Likewise, some of the best times of my life were during my days as a paramedic in Fort Worth. The 70s and 80s were rough-and-tumble times in Fort Worth EMS. Using only six ambulances, we provided emergency care to the city s citizens. We were young, and we were friends. We worked together, and we played together. One thing, though, is that we always put our work above all else. We were the first paramedics in Fort Worth, and we were proud and professional.

A single selfish event has permanently colored these two aspects of my life perhaps forever. In the early morning hours of Dec. 23, 2003, an EMT (age 29) and a paramedic (age 37) from MedStar ambulance raped a 15-year-old girl in the back of the ambulance. She was doing ride-outs as a part of a Boy Scouts of America Explorer program. MedStar is a public utility model (PUM) operation that does not have fixed stations. Instead, the ambulances are posted all over town at public venues in the smoke-and-mirrors staffing system called System Status Management (SSM).

The ambulance was parked behind a shopping mall on the west side of town when the ambulance crew began to make sexual suggestions to the 15-year-old girl. They coerced her into the back of the ambulance and both crew members repeatedly had sex, of various varieties, with her. Both crew members were married.

Of course, this caused quite a stir and was picked up by the national media. The EMT and paramedic were indicted by a Grand Jury and both were fired from MedStar. The family of the victim sued MedStar and the Boy Scouts of America; these trials are pending. The EMT recently pled guilty to three counts of sexual assault of a child under 17. A Fort Worth jury sentenced him to six years in the Texas Department of Corrections. The paramedic is out on bail awaiting trial.

Reading the victim impact statement, as reported in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, brought tears to my eyes and made it clear to me that this was a lot more than a simple black eye for EMS. It was a violation of the contract that EMS providers have with society.

This city trusted you, we trusted you, to be there to care for victims not to create them, the mother sobbed. The mother looked at the EMT defendant and told him about the devastation he had caused her daughter, who had dreams of becoming a paramedic.

She went on to say, "When she was three or four, her favorite show was Rescue 911, the woman said. I don't know how she will ever be able to look at a medical career without these painful memories. Another of her goals was to save herself for marriage. But you took that choice away from her before she could make that for herself. She didn't have the knowledge or experience to fend you off," she said. "Maybe one day, you will look into your daughter's eyes and be able to teach her from experience how to protect herself from a predator like you.

There was quite a discussion about this on the Texas EMS news list. What really struck me was the number of people who blamed the girl and the mother. Some wrote, What kind of mother would allow her daughter to ride on an ambulance at night? I agree that a girl this young should not have been on the ambulance at that hour. But that is not the point here.

One misguided person wrote, The girl could have fought them off she wanted it as bad[ly] as they did. Many pointed out how these two EMS workers violated the law and the Texas Penal Code. I kept wondering to myself, How can everybody be missing the big picture here?

People literally trust their lives to EMS, and, because of that trust, we are held to a higher standard than almost any other profession. In EMS and medicine, you learn intimate things about patients: you see things; you hear things; you are trusted. If an EMT and a paramedic cannot control their sexual drive with a 15-year-old girl in the sanctity of an ambulance, what will they do with the average patient?

Right after this news broke, I was in a convenience store and a MedStar ambulance roared past lights and siren on. The construction worker in front of me in line said jokingly to his coworker, There go the para-rapists.

These two people were predators, and the girl was a victim. The situation is no different than two coyotes running down and killing a rabbit. They have significantly injured this girl, and her injuries will last a lifetime. They have injured her family. They have injured their own families. They have injured MedStar. They have injured the ambulance contractor (Rural/Metro). They have injured AMAA (the PUM authority). They have injured the Boy Scouts of America. They have injured Fort Worth. They have injured Texas.

Most importantly, they have injured and tarnished the reputation of every EMS provider in the world, paid and volunteer, who goes out each day, puts their own safety and welfare aside, and takes care of the less fortunate, the injured and the infirm. Each individual in EMS made a conscious decision to help their fellow man. This choice was a contract with society not driven by laws and the penal code but by established professional behavior. EMTs and paramedics are held to a higher standard. Everybody in EMS has been injured by these two people.

So put aside the stupid law and order argument and grasp the true magnitude of the issue: These two men in my hometown violated the EMS contract with society, and it will take some time for that trust to be restored. Rest assured the stories of this incident from the Fort Worth Star Telegram have been widely circulated. Unfortunately, Fort Worth and Texas EMS will not be remembered for the good things that have occurred but for two EMS personnel from MedStar raping a child in an ambulance at Ridgmar Mall. And, because of this, two of my best memories scouting and Fort Worth EMS are heretofore tainted.

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