Four Michigan fire department paramedics and EMTs have been placed on paid leave after a 20-year-old woman was mistakenly pronounced dead and taken to a funeral home, a local official said this morning.
Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee held a press conference on Wednesday to answer questions about the bizarre case of Timesha Beauchamp, who was found alive and breathing by a Detroit mortuary worker on Sunday.
Beauchamp is currently at Sinai-Grace Hospital on a ventilator in critical condition, with the family attorney describing her prognosis for recovery as ‘touch and go.’
Menifee did not name the first responders who took the call and repeatedly checked Beauchamp’s vital signs, but described them as good paramedics who never faced any disciplinary issueS.
They included a lieutenant with 18 years of experience, a paramedic who has been on the job for seven years, and two EMTs with two years and six months of experience, respectively.
‘They feels terrible that it happened,’ Menifee said.
He added that the paramedics and EMTs are currently on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, who has been retained by the family, has alleged that the paramedics dismissed a relative’s assertion that she had seen Beauchamp breathing and felt a pulse, and that the family were handed a body bag for the 20-year-old to be zipped into for her trip to the funeral home – claims that Menifee vehemently denied on Wednesday.
Menifee opened the press briefing by providing a timeline of the incident, beginning with the 911 call at 7.27am on Sunday and ending with the departure of police from the scene an hour and a half later.
The fire chief said that during that time, his four paramedics and EMTs performed life-saving procedures for 30 minutes and checked Beauchamp’s vital signs on three separate occasions.
‘Each time, Ms Beauchamp didn’t show any signs of life,’ Menifee stressed.
The official acknowledged that as the first responders were about to leave, they were approached by a relative, saying that they heard Beauchamp breathing.
‘The fire department immediately grabbed their equipment, went in and reassessed her,’ Menifee stated. ‘At no time did they find her breathing.’
A short time later, a family member approached a police officer on the scene and said they thought they had felt a heartbeat on Beauchamp.
The patient was checked a third time, but again no signs of life were detected, according to the chief.
‘What transpired with Ms Beauchamp is unique and unsettling, we know there is evidence out there that this sort of thing happened before,’ Menifee said.
The chief then took time to refute the family attorney’s narrative, accusing Fieger of making ‘grossly inaccurate statements,’
‘The most alarming inaccurate statement is that a Southfield police officer or firefighter placed Ms Beauchamp in a body bag. That is absolutely untrue,’ he argued. ‘It is not part of our standard operating procedures, nor do we carry that equipment.’
Menifee also denied Fieger’s claims that the fire department failed to contact a physician, and that the local police department did not contact the medical examiner.
‘That is not true,’ he stressed.
While Menifee declined to speculate how Beachamps was revived after showing no signs of life, he invoked the so-called Lazarus syndrome or phenomenon, which is defined as a delayed return of spontaneous circulation after CPR has stopped. It is named after Lazarus of Bethany, who according to the Bible was resurrected by Jesus Christ four days after his death.
Fieger said during his own news conference via video on Tuesday afternoon that Beauchamp spent more than two hours in a body bag – a claim Chief Menifee repeatedly and fiercely denied – before a mortuary worker found her looking at him as he was getting ready to embalm her.
Beauchamp was pronounced dead after fire department paramedics and police were summoned to her family’s home in Southfield on a medical emergency call. More than two hours later, the 20-year-old woman was brought to James H Cole Home for Funerals.
According to Fieger, a staffer was getting ready to embalm Beauchamp when he discovered that the woman was far from dead.
‘Timesha was alive,’ the lawyer said. ‘Her eyes were open and she was breathing. My recollection is that the embalmer was actually there and was the person who opened the body bag.’
Fieger, who has been retained by Erica Lattimore, Beauchamp’s mother, to investigate what he called the ‘negligence’ that led to Timesha being declared dead, explained that the woman was born with cerebral palsy and requires constant care and breathing treatments three times a day.
On Sunday morning, Beauchamp’s mother and brother, who are in charge of changing, dressing and feeding her, noticed that she had difficulty breathing, and that her lips were pale and surrounded by secretions. The lawyer said she had apparently suffered a seizure.
The family called 911 and within 15 minutes four Southfield Fire Department paramedics arrived, along with police officers.
According to a statement from Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee, the first responders performed CPR and other ‘life reviving methods’ for 30 minutes.
Fieger said the medical responders were told of Timesha’s medical history, the medications she receives and about her daily breathing treatments.
He said what happened next is unclear but Timesha was declared to be dead, even though he said her godmother, who he said is a registered nurse, told the paramedics she had seen Timesha breathing and she felt that she had a pulse.
Fieger said the paramedics dismissed the godmother’s concerns, telling her drugs they had given Timesha were causing those movements.
‘The godmother felt that she saw chest movements and felt that she had a pulse. She told the paramedics and the paramedics told her that the movements were involuntary and were the result of the medication. And they went, according to the family, a total of three times to Timesha’s room to look at her,’ he said.
Oakland County spokesperson William Mullan told DailyMail.com over the phone that after determining that the woman has died, the EMTs followed standard operating procedure and contacted an emergency room physician at an area hospital, who reviewed the patient’s medical data and declared her deceased.
The Southfield Police Department then called the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office, saying that an official death declaration has been made for the patient and there was no suspicion of foul play that would have called for an autopsy.
Based on the information from the police and the ER doctor, a forensic pathologist released Beauchamp, which was still at home, directly to her family to make funeral arrangements.
‘The Southfield Fire and Police Departments followed all appropriate city, county and state protocols and procedures in this case,’ an updated statement from the fire department read. ‘The City of Southfield is currently conducting a thorough internal investigation in addition to the Oakland County Medical Control Authority (OCMCA) which will be reporting their findings to the State of Michigan Bureau of EMS, Trauma and Preparedness (BETP).’
Fiegler said Beauchamp was zipped into a body bag that was provided by the first responders and was left at home for two-and-a-half hours, until a vehicle from the funeral home arrived to pick her up at around 11.25am.
Chief Menifee stressed to reporters on Wednesday that neither firefighters nor police officers carry body bags.
Funeral home employees ‘were about to embalm her which is most frightening had she not had her eyes open. They would have begun draining her blood, to be very, very frank about it,’ Fieger told WXYZ on Monday.
When asked during Tuesday’s conference whether Beauchamp’s disability played a role in the erroneous declaration of death, Fieger said it was very likely.
‘She’s been disabled since birth. She requires constant care,’ the attorney said. ‘I believe her relatively fragile condition probably contributed to the false belief by the authorities she had deceased. My guess is it certainly played some role.’
Menifee pushed back against Fieger’s claim, saying that his firefighters are ‘very professional.’
He continued: ‘I’ve never had an issue with any firefighter looking at any diversity issued with a patient.. we pride ourselves on delivering the best service for every citizen.’
Lattimore, Beauchamp’s mother, said she’s ‘devastated’ by the ordeal her daughter went through.
‘I’m devastated that my daughter is going through what she’s going through,’ she told Click on Detroit Monday morning. ‘My family, her twin brother, her older brother – it’s just, I don’t even have words. I haven’t slept all night. I just don’t know what to do. My heart is so heavy.’
Beauchamp’s mother told the news station that when the paramedics were at her home Sunday morning, ‘They said, “Ma’am, she’s gone.” I told them, “Are you absolutely, 100 per cent sure that she’s gone?” They said, “Yes, ma’am, she’s gone.”‘
A few hours later, however, she said that someone from the funeral home called her with news that ‘devastated’ her life.
Lattimore said the funeral home staffer told her: ‘Ma’am, your daughter is on her way to Sinai Grace Hospital. She is breathing. She is alive.’
[The statement] ‘devastated my life,’ Beauchamp’s mother said, adding she responded, ‘What do you mean? What do you mean she’s breathing?’
The funeral home staffer said, ‘Ma’am, she’s in the hospital,’ Lattimore recalled.
Beauchamp’s mother said Monday that she isn’t sure if her daughter will be able to recover and survive from the ordeal she suffered. She wants answers about what happened, as well.
The management of the mortuary confirmed the facts of the case in a statement to DailyMail.com, saying that staff summoned Detroit Fire Department paramedics, who arrived and transported Beauchamp to a hospital.
‘We couldn’t believe it,’ said Dave Fornell, deputy commissioner of the Detroit Fire Department, who added that her heart rate was 80.