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EMTs Mistakenly Think Woman Dead

February 11, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) _ Paramedics mistakenly declared a 77-year-old woman dead after finding her unconscious on her bathroom floor, a blunder that went undiscovered for hours until she woke up while being put into a body bag.

The woman, Frances Foster of Brooklyn, was later hospitalized in critical condition. She had suffered a stroke.

``I called everyone and had to tell them my mother was dead, then only to call back and say she’s alive,″ said daughter Kim Foster Littlejohn. ``She could have been at the hospital getting taken care of. What a costly mistake.″

She said a medical examiner’s official didn’t discover Foster was alive until she was being put into the bag.

``He told me ... she suddenly moved and opened her eyes and he jumped back, startled,″ she said.

The two paramedics called to Foster’s home Saturday, who were not identified, were placed on desk duty pending an investigation. They found Foster lying on her bathroom floor and pronounced her dead at 2:21 p.m.

A discrepancy remains over when Foster was reported alive.

Littlejohn said the mistake was discovered at 7 p.m., hours after police arrived.

Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office, said that her office was notified of the presumed death at 3:41 p.m. and that Foster was reported alive at 5:35 p.m.

Donald Faeth, of the union that represents EMTs and paramedics, said Foster was ``cold to the touch″ and that one of her legs was bent and wouldn’t straighten, leading the paramedics to assume rigor mortis had set in.

Littlejohn said she hadn’t heard from her mother in about 10 days so she called authorities to open her apartment door.

Foster, a retired nurse, had no specific health problems but had been in declining health after losing her two sons to illness in less than two years, Littlejohn said.

``She stopped paying attention to her diet and started getting frail,″ she said. ``It took a real toll.″

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