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I had a disturbing experience at the Walmart today.

I had gone to Staples to pick up an Ethernet hub for my client and to look for racking suitable for putting my server PCs on, in order to get them off the carpet in my office. I got the hub, but as Staples didn't have appropriate racking I decided to stop at Walmart on my way out of town.

As I went in the front door, I was presented with a bizarre tableaux; eight or ten people huddled around a prone figure in the middle of the walkway. As I approached, several people in Walmart uniforms were helping an elderly woman onto a hastily-produced chair. The woman was bleeding profusely from the face; there was a puddle of blood on the floor. A manager-type was asking if the woman needed an ambulance; in point of fact, the manager was telling the woman that she did not need an ambulance. At the same time, a separate manager-type was thrusting paperwork at an elderly man, apparently the victim's husband, trying to get a signature on some piece of paper.

As I got closer, I could hear that the woman was hyperventilating. I identified myself as an EMT; no one acknowledged me. I again stated that I was an EMT, a bit louder this time. One of the manager-types glanced at me and went back to trying to get the elderly man to fill out paper work. The elderly woman had paper towels clutched in her hand, pressed to her bloody face.

I turned around and ran back to my car. I grabbed my radio from the front and my medical bags from the back, then ran back inside. As I approached with my gear, I stated loudly that I was an EMT and was going to assess the patient. One of the manager-types challenged me; "Are you an EMT here in town?"

As though that mattered. I considered telling her that I was nationally registered, but finally just said, "I work with XXX Ambulance", XXX being the paid service that transports patients from my own town and is based in the same town as the Walmart. I am affiliated with XXX Ambulance for the purposes of streamlining the legal aspects of my EMT work with the fire department, so I was telling the truth. Again, not that it mattered.

The manager-type was clearly disappointed that she could not tell me to buzz off. She obviously didn't realize that even were I an EMT from Mars, I had legal authority for care of the patient as soon as I asserted it.

I started to work up the patient. She had big gashes to both lips and a major bruise to one of her shins. I asked her what had happened; she pointed to a low matte-black cart nearby that I had not noticed until she pointed it out. "I tripped over that," she said. She seemed to think that it was her fault; even though I had been at the immediate scene for a minute, I had not noticed the cart. It was not her fault as far as I could tell. The actions of the managers, trying to get the husband to sign a release simultaneously while attempting to get the woman to agree not to call an ambulance, were craven and sick, and clearly indicated that they realized that the store had some liability.

I gave the woman a sterile sponge to replace the wads of paper towels. I asked for an ambulance; a bystander, not a Walmart employee, said that one had been called. The manager seemed unhappy with this news.

I checked out the leg injury, a significant bruise, and worked up from there.

The woman had been speaking to her husband while walking down the corridor. Neither one of them had seen the empty cart until she had walked into it, striking it hard with her leg, tripping over it. She fell straight onto her face, deeply gashing both lips and hitting her nose. Her teeth hurt, she was dizzy, and her upper back had point tenderness. She was tachycardic with a pulse of 108.

Around this time, a local cop showed up, then a squad from XXX Ambulance. I knew the squaddies; actually, I had worked an attempted suicide by car yesterday that these two EMTs had transported. I gave them the run-down on the patient. The lead EMT and the patient came to the conclusion that she should go to the hospital. While this discussion was occurring, I gathered up my tools and put my trauma bag back in order. As I was going out to put my bags in the ambulance and get the cot, some bystander stopped me and thanked me for helping. She was obviously less than impressed with the Walmart response.

I helped the squaddies put the woman on the cot and wheeled her to the rig. We put her in. I hopped in back and made myself useful while the ambulance crew did the usual things; took a full set of vitals, started O2 and a heart monitor due to the dizziness, and placed a line.

The crew replaced my sponge, I wished the patient good luck, then I grabbed my bags and took them back to my car. I went back into the Walmart to get on with my shopping; there were now several orange cones and two employees protecting shoppers from the nearly-invisible cart.

Walmart did not have racking.

I got to my client's factory about a half-hour later. I called the emergency department at the hospital that I knew had received the patient, identified myself, and asked that the staff give the patient my name and phone number in case she ran into problems with Walmart.

I was stunned and disappointed by the disregard and idiocy shown by the Walmart managers. I can only imagine that community-minded Sam Walton must be spinning in his grave.



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 9th, 2005 03:35 pm (UTC)
Dude, Walton's spinning so fast, if you strapped electrical coils to him, he could power Denver.

There are two levels of gross negligence here. One is on the employees end - they were bent on trivializing the accident for a reason. Either to protect themselves, or their store, or both. The second level is a corporate problem. Wal-mart should have policies that are clearly understood by the managers on the appropriate steps for a medical emergency, and it should be clearly understood that accidents should never be covered up to minimize fault.

Your experience was especially scary - I'd understand it if the store was just disorganized and in a panic after the accident - if they didn't have an emergency plan at all, this would probably be the case. But when you stood up and identified yourself as an EMT, they should have immediately deferred to you. Not just as a matter of protocol, but also because human nature would push them to do so. Humans have an almost instinctive response to defer to the most qualified chain of command in the case of an emergency. It's probably a survival reflex.

The fact that they didn't immediately let you handle the incident makes me suspect that their actions were a part of a corporate 'hushing' policy.

Whatever the case, I hope you got the woman's name. If there are any serious injuries, she might need you as a witness.
Feb. 9th, 2005 03:53 pm (UTC)
I'd hate to think that there was a corporate policy in play here, but let's just say that the more I interact with Walmart, the less I respect them as a company.

I am forwarding my (edited) remarks to the corporate office, plus, I did try to get my information to the woman through the ED. At the time, I was thinking in my 'professional' role and it didn't occur to me to exchange information until after the ambulance had rolled.
Feb. 10th, 2005 03:45 am (UTC)
I was thinking in my 'professional' role and it didn't occur to me to exchange information until after the ambulance had rolled.

That makes perfect sense. You shouldn't have had to think along those lines. Oh, and I'm putting a link to this. Hope you don't mind.
Feb. 10th, 2005 05:04 am (UTC)
Nope, don't mind at all.
Feb. 9th, 2005 05:10 pm (UTC)
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
It just gives me another reason to hate WalMart.

When I managed CD Death, there was an incident. One day while my assistant Sirena and I were working, a male patron, black, approx. 40 years old, collapsed in the aisle and began convulsing. No one, not myself or Sirena or two other patrons in the store, actually saw the man fall, so no one knew if he had hit his head or not on the way down. (We was between two browsers that were relatively close together.)

My first instinct was to call 911, for several reason. I'm really not sure which was most prominent at the time, honestly. I knew I was not qualified to assist an injured man having a seizure on the floor of my store. As far as I knew, no one else in the store was qualified either. I also knew the risks of attempting to help an injured person from a legal standpoint, though it had nothing to do with corporate mandates or training classes. The store could be sued. I could be sued just for trying to help. I didn't want any of that, surely.

Sirena wanted to run to the other end of our shopping plaza, where there's a business office of visiting nurses for home-care and hospice purposes, and bring one of them back. I told her I didn't think it was a good idea. (I thought this partially because I had no idea what sort of business they ran or what sort of nurses they used.) Anyway, from the time it took me to call 911 for a police officer to arrive was about two minutes, if that long. He accessed the situation and assured me I had done the right thing. The ambulance was only a minute behind him. The EMTs came in, took care of the guy, and got him out of the store.

About a month later, he returned on a day when Sirena and I were both there, and thanked us for taking care of him. His seizure had been caused by a reaction to antibiotics he had just started taking for a bad cold. I told him all we really did was dial 911, and he said that it was more than some people would have done.
Feb. 10th, 2005 05:17 am (UTC)
Re: Stop me if you've heard this one before.
You absolutely did the right thing; quick 'initiation of the 911 system' is one of the keys to the best outcome for the patient. There's really not much anyone, even an EMT, can do for a patient that is actively seizing; move sharp objects away, loosen constricting garments.

For what it's worth, most states have 'good samaritan' laws protecting laypeople rendering aid in emergent situations.

It's excellent that the guy came and thanked you guys. It seems trivial, but I really like it when the patient, family, or bystanders realize that the people helping could have made different, or rather indifferent, choices.
Feb. 11th, 2005 02:43 am (UTC)
The other day my mom was at Eckerd Drugs where apparently an old lady fell in the paring lot. While the EMTs were assessing her, Eckerd employees where taking pictures of the woman and area of the sidewalk where she fell, apparently for liability/insurrance reasons.
Feb. 11th, 2005 07:13 am (UTC)
It disappoints me that corporations turn into these anti-human organisms. Why can't any of them be socially-responsible?
Feb. 11th, 2005 09:41 am (UTC)
There's no profit in it
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


Bjamexza Q. Pyndejo / James O. Payne, Jr.
Bxiie Q. Pyndejo

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