When Brian Nunamaker realized that his youngest daughter was having a medical emergency while they were driving home, he pulled over. As soon as he saw that 18-month-old Lena was having a seizure, he immediately called 911 and waited in the parking lot for help to arrive.
Captain James Kelley and Sergeant Virgil Bloom were the first to arrive at the scene within three minutes of the call. Even though these volunteer firefighters have been credited for possibly saving the little girl's life, their efforts have ended in a suspension for both of them.
According to The Washington Post, by the time Kelley, who is a firefighter in DC and volunteers in Fredericksburg, VA, got to Lena, she was limp and blue. Kelley and Bloom could either wait for medics to arrive to transport the dying child or take the unresponsive toddler to the hospital in their fire truck themselves.
Kelley decided to transport the little girl, who was in dire need of medical assistance, because he says there was a lack of communication in how quickly the ambulance would be arriving.
According to Kelley, when he radioed the medics — while holding Lena's unresponsive body along the side of the road — they didn't answer until his second attempt and still never responded with an exact location. Kelley knew that the ambulance had been on a previous call at least eight miles out and considered that it would only take them three minutes to get to the closest hospital.
Kelley quickly nestled Lena into two piles of coats that he arranged along a row of seats in the fire truck and secured her with a seat belt. He then administered oxygen as the truck sped off toward the hospital.
Lena's color returned during the ride, and her right eye began to focus while the left side of her body remained paralyzed. Lena started having another seizure in the emergency room, and her father said that neurologists told him that response times are "extremely important" when treating seizures.
Thanks to their quick thinking, Lena is now in good health and her father believes that Kelley and Bloom "simply had the best interests of our daughter's care in mind." However, rules prohibit someone from using a fire truck to transport a person in medical need. Stafford County officials are reviewing the incident as a "potential regulatory compliance issue," and Kelley, Bloom, and a third volunteer remain suspended.
Despite the punishment, Kelley and the chief of the volunteer firefighting unit feel comfortable with his decision in this dire circumstance. "This is one of those situations where actions outweigh policy," Chief Christopher Smith said.
"My wife and I feel terrible for the fallout that has happened to these two gentlemen," Nunamaker said. "The actions of these men represent a dedication to their mission, and a deep concern of doing what is best for the people they are serving. In our eyes they are heroes."