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Dramatic 9-1-1 Call: Nurse Refuses To Perform CPR On Collapsed Elderly Woman

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An elderly woman died after staff at a senior living facility refused to perform CPR on her after she collapsed in a dining room.

On a 9-1-1 tape, a dispatcher pleads desperately with a nurse to encourage her or anyone at the facility to perform CPR on Lorraine Bayless, the 87-year-old resident who was struggling to breathe. Over seven minutes elapse between when the original call was made and paramedics arrive, but the nurse repeatedly refuses to perform CPR or have someone else on site attempt to resuscitate her. Bayless later died at a nearby hospital, according to a local NBC affiliate KGET.

The call is hard to listen to if you're, like, a human. At one point Bakersfield Fire Dispatcher Tracey Halvorson pleads, "Is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?" And the nurse can only muster up an awfully cold, bureaucratic response: "Not at this time."

Bayless was a resident at Glenwood Gardens, a senior living facility in a relatively well-to-do area of Bakersfield. Although there is a skilled nursing and assisted living facility at the site, Bayless lived in the "independent living" section. KGET described as an "apartment complex for seniors." There usually aren't nurses in this area of the facility.

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What might be the weirdest twist is that no one in this story—except for the dispatcher, of course—seems at all fazed by what happened to Bayless.

Glenwood's executive director Jeffrey Toomer confirmed that the nurse was just following orders: "In the event of a health emergency at this independent living community our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives. That is the protocol we followed."

Toomer told KGET that all residents of the independent living are informed of this policy before they move in, and it applies to everyone—not just the people who have "do-not-resuscitate" orders. Bayless herself did not have such an order. But oddly enough, if Bayless had been less independent and living in the skilled nursing facility or assisted living facility, then staff would have offered her medical help.

Even Bayless' daughter said that she was satisfied with the way that staff responded to her mother's collapse.

Here's the full audio of the call:

The last few minutes of the phone call were transcribed by KGET:

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Dispatcher: We need to get CPR started.
Nurse: Yeah, we can't do CPR.
Dispatcher: Then hand the phone to the passerby. If you can't do it, I need, hand the phone to the passerby, I'll have her do it. Or if you've got any civic citizens there, I'll have them do it.
Nurse: No, no, it's not …
Dispatcher: Anybody there can do CPR. Give them the phone, please. I understand if your facility is not willing to do that. Give the phone to that passerby, that stranger...this woman is not breathing enough. She's going to die if we don't get this started. Do you understand?
Nurse: I understand. I am a nurse. But I cannot have our other senior citizens who don't know CPR do it…
Dispatcher: I will instruct them.
Nurse: we're in a dining room
Dispatcher: I will instruct them. Is there anyone there who will …
Nurse: I can't do that...
Dispatcher: Okay. I don't understand why you're not willing to help this patient
Nurse: I am but, I'm just saying that...
Dispatcher: Okay, I'll walk you through it all. EMS takes the liability for this, Colleen. I'm happy to help you, OK? This is EMS protocol.
Nurse (to someone at the facility): Can you get (unintelligible) right away? I don't know where he is. But she's yelling at me and saying we have to have one of our other residents perform CPR. I'm feeling stressed and I'm not going to do that, make that call.
Dispatcher: Colleen, is there anybody that works there who is willing do to it?
Nurse: We can't do that. That's what I'm trying to say.
Dispatcher: Are we just going to let this lady die?
Nurse: Well, that's why we're calling 9-1-1.
Dispatcher: We can't wait. She can't wait right now. She is stopping breathing. She can't wait for them to get there.
Nurse: She's taken three breaths.
Dispatcher: It's not enough. We need to get CPR started.
Nurse: He's saying we don't. So you can talk to my boss. I don't know what to say.
Dispatcher (to another dispatcher): They're refusing CPR. They're going let her die. By the facility. Yeah.
Nurse: When will the fire department be here? When will the ambulance be here?
Dispatcher: They're coming as quick...they've been on the way all this time. But we can't wait. This lady is going to die.
Nurse: Yeah.
Dispatcher: Well, if you get anybody, any stranger that happens to walk by, who is willing to help... I understand if your boss is telling you you can't do it. But if there's any...it's a human being. I don't, you know...is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?
Nurse: Not at this time.
Dispatcher, to another dispatcher: No. They won't touch her at all. I can't get them to touch her at all.
Nurse: We have residents that are her age or older.
Dispatcher: Any guests? Any guests that are there that are willing to help?
Nurse: No, I don't have any.
Dispatcher: Is there a gardener? Any staff? Anyone who doesn't work for you anywhere? Can we flag someone down in the street and get them to help this lady. Can we flag a stranger down? I bet a stranger would help her. I'm pretty good at talking them into it. If you can flag a stranger down, I will help, I will tell them how to help her.
Nurse: He said not to move her.
Dispatcher: Okay. Has anyone gone to look for a stranger?