CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Tammy Willett spent Thursday night at Corpus Christi Medical Center Bay Area after her daughter, Ashley, was taken there Thursday morning by ambulance while she was having difficulty breathing.
“All night, I looked at my daughter last night and said, ‘count your blessings,’ because this could’ve turned out so much worse,” she said.
Ashley is 27-years-old and has Down Syndrome and a compromised immune system. Tammy Willett and her husband were at work in Port Aransas when Ashley’s caretaker, Tami Santarelli, told her the paramedics were bringing her to the hospital. Tammy Willett and her husband drove down from Port Aransas to meet Ashley at the hospital.
When Tammy Willett arrived at the hospital, she went to check on her daughter.
“They said, ‘we don’t have your daughter here,’” she said.
The ambulance arrived a few minutes after they did, Tammy Willett said it took about a half hour for her and her husband to get to the hospital. The ambulance was delayed leaving the sub-division the Willett home is in because of construction on Flour Bluff Dr.
“All night long I’ve tried to figure it out, I sat here in utter shock trying to figure out how is that physically possible,” Tammy Willett said.
Santarelli was following behind the ambulance. She said the ambulance could not turn on Flour Bluff Dr. because of construction barriers. The ambulance had to make a u-turn at the sub-division entrance, exit at Purdue Rd., and turn onto Woodcrest Dr. Santarelli said traffic on the two roads, which are detours for the Flour Bluff Dr. construction project, was difficult to navigate through, as the roads are very narrow.
“We had cars trying to pull over from the ambulance, but there wasn’t enough room,” she said. “There was no way to speed it up, it was just a no-win situation for anybody,” Santarelli said.
She said she felt helpless following behind the ambulance knowing Ashley was alone.
“The fact that she was by herself, she couldn’t see me, and it was taking so long, I didn’t know what kind of state she was in; if she was in a panic, what if things were getting worse, what if her levels dropped more?” she said. I just wanted to be able to physically see her, and get her taken care of. The longer it took, the harder it was for me driving behind them, because I just wanted to move everyone.”
Brett Van Hazel, assistant director of engineering services with the city of Corpus Christi, said the construction project was for work on sewer lines in the area. It started Monday and completed Friday.
Van Hazel said there are emergency protocols in place for when there are construction projects that close roads, and the city will look into this incident to see if anything can be improved for future construction projects.
“When we put these traffic control plans in place, we do try to take in account these kinds of situations,” he said. “They’re not always perfect, but I think we do have a pretty high success rate, but we always have room to improve. We will go back and look at it, and make sure we’re doing everything we can to make sure access is available for everybody.”