If you live in the Atlanta area, you've heard about the case of Darlene Dukes (left) who died when an emergency dispatcher sent an ambulance to the wrong address last week.

Yes, human error played a part in this tragedy (it appears the dispatcher was not a good listener). But this tragedy could have been avoided if Ms. Dukes had a land line in her home. Many consumers have switched to cell phones as their primary phone in order to save money. But cell phones can cost lives.

There is no technology in place to identify cell phone numbers coming into an emergency call center. Therefore, it is important to have a land line - preferably a corded phone that doesn't require batteries. If your power goes out, your cordless phones won't work and you can't charge your cell phones either.

The official cause of Ms. Dukes' death was a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). A PE occurs when a blood clot travels from its point of origin to the lungs where it lodges in a small vessel causing the blockage of blood and oxygen. That part of the lung dies from lack of blood and oxygen.

Typical symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath (Dyspnea)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain that gets worse with inhalation
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Rapid breathing
  • Cough or coughing up blood
  • More Medical Minute after the break...

    Clots can also be in the form of fat or bone, such as when a traumatic fracture of the large leg bone (femur) occurs. There is always the danger of a tiny piece of bone dislodging from the fracture site and traveling to the lungs.

    The cause of clots vary and include prolonged immobilization of the lower legs, such as when sitting in a cubicle or sitting on a plane for many hours without getting up and walking around. Other risk factors include pregnancy, estrogen therapy, injury, recent surgery, cardiac problems, stroke, infection, or obesity.

    The most common cause of pulmonary embolism (clots) is Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT. DVT is caused by a formation of a clot in the lower leg or arm.

    Symptoms of DVT can vary from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to pain, swelling and redness of the calf area or lower leg caused by the clot irritating the wall of the artery. If you develop these symptoms of pain, redness or swelling in your lower legs - go to an emergency room or notify your doctor to rule out DVT!

    Diagnosing a DVT early can mean the difference between life or death.

    Scroll up to see the symptoms of pulmonary embolus once a clot breaks off from your leg and travels to your lungs. DVT can mean sudden death, so please take the time to get up, walk around and stretch your legs throughout the day as you sit at your computers!

    More info on the web:

    Pulmonary Embolism - Mayo Clinic

    eMedicine Health

    This has been your Medical Minute.


    Any medical advice published on this blog is for your general information only and is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice. You should not take any action before consulting with your personal physician or a health care provider. Sandrarose.com and its affiliates cannot be held liable for any damages incurred by following advice found on this blog.

    • lnp03

      This is such a tragedy! It is important to have a land line. I know that many people only have cell phones but having a land line is good in case of emergencies. You are easier to find.

    • http://www.myspace.com/bettathaniwasb4 2bme

      A landline is good to have however my cellphone has a gps tracking system. Actually both of my phones do which are also in many up to date phones.My daughter accidentally called 911 on my cell and when they called back and no one answered the police showed up just like they would a land line.Now maybe it's my carrier i don't know, but a cell can and will work in a dire situation.

    • BayArea

      This sounds like something from an epsiode of "House".

      Thanks Sandra, I plan to cut/paste this story and send to some of my girlfriends/co-workers here at work.

    • Kymystry

      My old Manager would get pissed that I got up 50-lebben times aday to walk around until I shut his lil shorts azz DOWN with my Dr's note saying I was prone to blod clots cause I WAS on the pill for 45 days .. thank GOD I don't have to take them anymore

    • katgirl33

      And Sandra, 911 could have pinpointed her area down to the closest tower in her area. What kind of systems they working with in the ATL? In Chicago, as soon as you call 911, they tracing the number...

      But, the bigger issue here is that the person who is trained to have a sharp ear for details DROPPED THE BALL when obtaining the important information. The dispatcher should have repeated what she thought the woman said, to make sure she had the right address.

    • Kymystry

      @ katgirl this is what was reported on the news in atl yesterday.

      GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. (MyFOX Atlanta) – Disturbing information was brought to light Wednesday about a 911 operator who was fired following the death of a Johns Creek woman. Thirty-nine-year-old Darlene Dukes died August 2 of a pulmonary embolism. Investigators said Dukes waited nearly 30 minutes for an ambulance because of a dispatching mistake.

      In the 12 years that Gina Conteh worked as a Fulton County dispatcher, she racked up a personnel file that is nearly 2,000 pages long. The file contained some troubling complaints that led to several suspensions.
      The call Conteh received on August 2 form Darlene Dukes would mark the end of her career. Now there is an investigation to determine if that call ultimately led to the end of Dukes' life.

      Dukes suffered from a serious health problem while she waited on hold for nearly 30 minutes for paramedics.

      After Dukes spoke with Conteh, an ambulance was dispatched to Wells Street in Atlanta, even though Dukes lived nearly 30 miles away on Wales Drive in Johns Creek.

      A review of Conteh's personnel file showed an August 6 dismissal letter from Fulton County. In it, former Fulton County 911 Director Rocky Moore said, "You admit to the delay in calling the ambulance because you thought someone else was handling the call." Moore went on to say Conteh "failed to accurately and correctly verify the address."

      Other contents in Conteh's file indicated she was suspended seven times for disciplinary problems between 2002 and 2007.

      In several instances, Moore threatened Conteh with five to 10 day suspensions. In at least one case, Conteh was ordered to take anger management classes for what Fulton County described as fighting, instigating a fight or disturbance while on duty.

      Some of Conteh's suspensions were reduced to one to three day suspensions. Some documents also praised Conteh and gave her high marks.

      The underlying question now is why, with all of the disciplinary actions taken against her, Conteh was able to stay on the job.

    • Mzsuave

      That is so unfortunate. Thanks for the Medical Minute, Sandra.

    • avidreader

      Yes thanks for the medical minute Sandra

    • bobblekins

      No one can beat your medical minutes, SR. You really do a public service every time you do one. Excellent.

    • http://xscape2xscape.com crystal

      so when you hear someone say that the person died because they "threw a clot" they meant a DVT if a person has one it can be treated with blood thinners if diagnosed in time. Some types of leg pain can be a DVT (the clot is traveling from the bottom and can wound up in your lungs)