French officials are investigating after a young woman died hours after calling emergency services and was reportedly mocked by one of its operators. A worker’s union now claims the operator isn’t to blame for the woman’s death, however.
Naomi Musenga, 22, called Strasbourg emergency services in December after developing severe stomach pain, according to BBC News. A released recording of the distressing 911 call has sparked renewed interest in the incident.
“I’m going to die,” Musenga said. ” … Help me. I have a lot of pain. I have very bad pain.”
“You will die, certainly, one day — like everyone else,” the operator replied, before giving Musenga the number to SOS Médecins, a French medical emergency service that sends doctors directly to people’s homes.
The recording, obtained by CNN, reveals more details about the call.
Operator: “Yes hello?”
Musenga: “Hello … Help me, ma’am.”
Operator: “Yes, what’s going on?”
Musenga: “Help me.”
Operator: “Well, if you do not tell me what’s going on, I will hang up.”
The woman can’t fully articulate her condition and says she’s in a lot of pain. In response, the operator tells her to call a doctor.
Musenga: “I’m gonna die.”
Operator: “Yes … you will die, certainly, one day, like everyone else. Call the SOS doctors.” [The operator gives her the number to SOS Médecins, France’s medical emergency service that sends doctors directly to a house.]
Musenga: “Please, help me, ma’am.”
Operator: “I can’t help you, I don’t [know what’s wrong with you].”
Musenga: “I have a lot of pain, I have very bad pain.”
Operator: “And where?”
Musenga: “My stomach hurts a lot … and I feel terrible everywhere.”
Operator: “Yes, well, you call SOS doctors.” [The operator gives her the number again.
According to BFM-TV, Musenga hung up with the operator and a relative called for a doctor to come to the house. She was taken to the hospital where she suffered two heart attacks shortly after arriving. The young mother was then placed in the ICU but eventually passed away.
An official cause of death hasn’t been determined, officials with the Strasbourg prosecutor’s office said. Musenga’s initial autopsy showed symptoms of multiple organ failure, however, according to the news station.
Musenga’s family lawyer Mohamed Aachour blasted the 911 operator for her negligence on Thursday, telling reporters, “…There were no questions like: ‘Are you alone? Are you able to dial the phone number?’ ‘How long have you been hurt?’ Or ‘Are you in pain?”
“All that she has had as treatment is indifference or cynicism,” he added.
The president of the worker’s union who represents the emergency service defended the operator, saying the call center was short-staffed at the time and that the operators were overworked.
“The operators answer calls 12 consecutive hours a day,” union president Jean-Claude Matry told CNN. “They undergo a lot of stress and it becomes hard to distinguish serious causes from boo-boos.”
In an interview with BBC News, the unnamed operator echoed Claid Matry’s claims, saying she and other workers “are constantly under pressure.”
“I can be two or three hours hanging on my phone, I have no time to get up there’s so much [demand] everywhere,” she said. “We hang up and we pick up.”
When asked if she regretted her comments, the operator replied, “In the conditions… let’s say it was inappropriate.”
Musenga’s grieving family said they do not blame the operator for their loved one’s death, considering her poor working conditions. News of the young woman’s demise sparked the hashtag #JusticePourNaomi (“Justice for Naomi”) where social media users have banded together to plan a rally in her honor.
The rally is scheduled for Wednesday, CNN reported.