(EDITOR’S NOTE, 7/29/18, 11:18 PM ET: This article has been updated to include the names of the four medics, a link to a GoFundMe for Black’s family, and to clarify that Nicole Black also goes by Nicole Benhamou.)
A black mother’s recent, preventable tragic death in Florida sheds light on how the American healthcare system leaves black women to fend for themselves.
Earlier this month, 30-year-old Crystle Galloway had her second daughter by Caesarian section. On July 4, just a few days after giving birth, she collapsed in her home. Her 7-year-old daughter called her grandmother, Nicole Black — who also goes by Nicole Benhamou — who lived a few doors down. When Black saw her daughter lying on the floor, her wife called 911. However, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputies and paramedics refused to take Galloway to the hospital because she couldn’t afford it.
“The EMS came, the whole conversation was that my daughter couldn’t afford an ambulance because she had just had a baby. Did I want to spend $600 just to take her three blocks,” Black told local media. “They didn’t do any vital signs, no blood pressure. No temperature, as my daughter was in her bed under the covers, screamed and begged for them to take her to the hospital.”
When she said she would take her own daughter to the hospital, and asked the paramedics to help put her in her car, they reluctantly complied, but apparently dropped her several times on their way to the car.
“They clumped and clumped and clumped my daughter down three flights of stairs. So any injury [she] had, they made it worse,” Black said.
Doctors at the urgent care center Black drove Galloway to determined that she had a stroke and needed to go to Tampa General Hospital. But by the time they got there, Galloway was dead. The four paramedics, Lt. John ‘Mike’ Morris, Fire Medic Justin Sweeney, Fire Medic Andrew J. Martin, and acting Lt. Cortney Barton have all been suspended pending a hearing scheduled for July 31, according to the Daily Mail. A GoFundMe for Galloway’s children, launched by Nicole Benhamou, has accumulated more than $13,000 in donations as of this writing — $8,000 more than the goal amount.
However, even black women with the best health insurance money can buy are still treated differently by American healthcare providers.
When tennis star Serena Williams– who likely has the best health insurance money can buy — gave birth in February, she had to do it by emergency Caesarian section. A day later, while resting in the hospital bed, she noticed she was short of breath. Because she had a history of blood clots and had been off of her anticoagulant medicine due to the recent surgery, she was certain she had another blood clot.
However, when Williams told a nurse that she needed a CT scan and a Heparin drip, doctors were skeptical, thinking her pain medicine affected her mental state. Doctors refused to listen to Williams and instead performed an ultrasound on her legs. In a Vogue magazine profile, Williams recalled having to be her own doctor because the doctors at her hospital weren’t taking her seriously.
“I was like, a Doppler? I told you, I need a CT scan and a heparin drip,” she remembers telling the team. The ultrasound revealed nothing, so they sent her for the CT, and sure enough, several small blood clots had settled in her lungs. Minutes later she was on the drip. “I was like, listen to Dr. Williams!”
America’s healthcare system strongly resembles its justice system — a normal one for white people, and an entirely different one for people of color.
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.