I-Team Follow-up on questions after Apex EMS call

APEX, N.C. (WTVD) -- We received a lot of feedback about the Wake County EMS system after our report Wednesday about an Apex woman searching for answers as to why her husband died from lack of oxygen to the brain.

Click here to read and watch that report.

Lucinda Ward says her husband Ervin died last year after it took paramedics 90 minutes to get him to the hospital.

Documents show she called 911 at 7:02 a.m. while they were getting ready for a dialysis appointment. Firefighters arrived at her house seven minutes later. Then, paramedics arrived 12 minutes after her 911 call.

She thought it took too long because the Apex Fire and EMS station is about a mile from her house.

We spoke to Jeff Hammerstein, the District Chief of Wake County EMS, who told us the emergency system is not based on where a station is located but on where the closest ambulance is according to GPS (Global Positioning System - the space-based satellite navigation system).

"Those units are constantly moving about - responding to calls, transporting to hospitals. So, when a call comes in, the location of that call is going to go up onto the system GPS coordinates and all. The system is going to find, by GPS, the closest ambulance and assign them to that call," Hammerstein explained.

Ward says the closest hospital to her home on in Apex is WakeMed Cary - about 9 minutes away. Twenty-five minutes after she called 911, Ervin was in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

But, about a minute after paramedics left for the hospital with her husband, he went into cardiac arrest. They stopped on the side of the road to try to resuscitate him, which is standard EMS policy across the country.

"The only way you are going to get that heartbeat again is to stop right where you are, whether it's a living room floor, whether it's the bathroom, whether it's the backyard, whether it's the side of the road. Stop right there and focus directly on that resuscitation," said Hammerstein.

After pulling over for 36 minutes, they restored his pulse and changed their destination to Rex Hospital - known for its expertise in cardiac care.

Ward says her husband never regained consciousness and died nine days later at the age of 54. A neurologist's report said he died from lack of oxygen to his brain.

Though Hammerstein cannot comment on the case, he says he has complete faith in the Wake County EMS system.

"Anything happens to me, my wife, my daughter, there are no hands I'd rather be in than my own Wake County paramedics and EMTs right here," he said.

Ward is planning to sue the town of Apex over her husband's death.

Hammerstein says Wake County EMS has one of the best records in the country of saving cardiac arrest patients.

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