DETROIT — One Detroit paramedic has been suspended and another is facing suspension after a woman was declared dead at her home and later was found to be alive when she gasped before embalming began at a funeral home.
The latest details are in a state license suspension filed last week against Michael Storms, a Southfield firefighter and paramedic, who was part of a four-member team responding to the home of the 20-year-old woman.
The documents obtained by The Associated Press are significant because no other agency has publicly offered many details about what happened to Timesha Beauchamp, who has cerebral palsy. Her family called 911 in August because of what appeared to be serious breathing problems.
Two Southfield firefighters who are paramedics and two more firefighters who are emergency medical technicians responded. That emergency crew later called a doctor at a hospital who declared Beauchamp dead based on information provided at the scene.
Beauchamp was then taken to James H. Cole Home for Funerals. Staff at the funeral home discovered she was alive just before she was to be embalmed, said Geoffrey Fieger, an attorney for Beauchamp’s family.
“They were about to embalm her, which is most frightening, had she not had her eyes open. ... The funeral home unzipping the body bag — literally — that’s what happened to Timesha, and seeing her alive with her eyes open,” Fieger said.
Southfield Chief Johnny Menifee told reporters last week that Beauchamp might be alive because of “Lazarus syndrome,” a reference to people who come back to life without assistance after attempts to resuscitate have failed.
— Storms stopped resuscitation efforts six minutes before getting permission from a doctor who was contacted by phone. “At no point did (Storms) attempt to verify circulation or respiration” with a device such as a stethoscope.
— “The vital signs and description depicted to the physician were inaccurate.”
— Minutes later, Storms went back into the home when family members said Beauchamp appeared to be breathing and had a pulse. He placed her on a monitor, which “clearly showed” electrical activity and revealed she “was not deceased.” Apparently no action was taken.
— Storms went inside again when relatives noticed signs of life. “Both times (Storms) failed to recognize the patient was still alive” and indicated that chest movement was normal due to her medication.
The state also said Storms changed his report when it was uploaded a second time to an incident database the next day.
Beauchamp wasn’t taken to a hospital until Cole Funeral Home in Detroit called 911 hours later. Funeral home staff actually saw her chest moving earlier when they picked up the body at the Southfield home, the state said, but Beauchamp’s family said they were assured by the medical crew that she was dead.
An Oakland County agency that oversees local emergency medical services had access to Storms’ report and other information and shared its conclusions with the Michigan Division of EMS and Trauma.
Menifee told the AP that the state’s version of events is “very alarming and very concerning.” But at the same time, he said it’s “not how we understand what happened.”
The state has also suspended the license of another firefighter/paramedic, Scott Rickard. A hearing scheduled for next week will likely be postponed.
A lawyer for the paramedics, T. Joseph Seward, said Storms and Rickard will be contesting the conclusions.
He declined further comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Cox Media Group