The family of a young Mississippi mother who died in January after falling unconscious from an asthma attack believes her death could have been prevented if an emergency room had not been closed.
Shyteria Shardae “Shy” Shoemaker was 15 weeks pregnant and was already the mother of a 2-year-old girl. Shoemaker’s aunt told the Chickasaw Journal that the 23-year-old slept with the assistance of a breathing machine and used an inhaler to control her asthma attacks.
During the early hours of Jan. 27 Shoemaker called out for help before collapsing in her doorway, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
Shoemaker was gasping for air when her family decided to drive her to the emergency room at Trace Regional Hospital. Around 1:20 a.m., her cousin LeKearis Shoemaker dialed 911 to let dispatchers know they were heading to the emergency room. To their surprise, the dispatcher informed them that the ER closed down in 2014.
“I was like, ‘What the f— do you mean there’s no ER?'” LeKearis told the Ledger. “Every other place has an ER.”
LeKearis said the family was told to head to the fire department. Six minutes later they arrived, and two firemen were waiting outside the station to help, Fire Chief Jonathan Blankenship told the paper.
However, Shy’s family felt the firemen weren’t moving with enough urgency, so they went to the downtown square and attempted to get help from a police officer.
Instead of requesting help, the officer allegedly told LeKearis and Shy’s other cousins to get down on the ground.
“[The officer] looked like he was shocked … like he was scared, like we were gonna rob him,” LeParishe Shoemaker said about the cop’s face.
Meanwhile, the ambulance they called had still not arrived. There are only two ambulances that operate in the county and on that evening, one was not in service. The other one was on the other side of the county and would take over 20 minutes to arrive.
Eventually, the vehicle arrived and it drove Shy about 20 miles to Baptist Memorial Hospital. Although every effort was made to save Shoemaker, she was pronounced dead at 2:35 a.m. An official cause of death is pending an autopsy report.
Shy’s family believes that if the ambulance hadn’t arrived so late and if the ER remained open, she’d still be alive.
“That’s a life they could have saved,” said Shy’s mother, Makesha Shoemaker, who also wonders if race played a role in how things unfolded that night.
In fall 2018, several community members wrote letters to the Chickasaw Journal with the hopes of re-opening the Trace Regional Hospital emergency room.
(Photo: FS Productions/Getty Images)