A horrific injury. A heroic rescue effort. And a desperate plea: Please don’t call the ambulance, it costs too much
When a 45-year-old woman’s leg became caught in the gap between an Orange Line train and the platform Friday afternoon, she was in agony. The cut on her leg went down to the bone.
Beyond her pain, she had another fear. Shaking and crying, she begged people not to call an ambulance. “Do you know how much an ambulance costs?” she wept.
Her fellow passengers rushed to her aid. One man stood behind her so she could lean on him. Another passenger placed a cold bottle of water to her leg. And at least 10 people pushed on the car together, moving it just enough for the woman to pull free, according to a video of the accident the MBTA released Monday.
Marleny Polanco said she was at Mass. Ave. Station at the peak of rush hour when she heard the woman scream. Immediately, a group of men were there to help push the train away from the platform, Polanco said. “It all just happened so fast,” Polanco said. “I think within a minute or so, she was able to pull her leg out.”
A few people helped wrap her leg in a compress, Polanco said. Despite her injuries, the woman did not want anyone to call an ambulance, saying it would cost her thousands of dollars.
Polanco, who lives in Lawrence, said she didn’t think the accident was the woman’s fault, saying the gap between the platform and the train cart was too wide.
The gap was 5 inches, MBTA officials said.
The woman’s painful calculation that she could not afford an ambulance has drawn wide attention after a Globe reporter who witnessed the aftermath of the platform accident posted about it on Twitter. The post has received more than 6,700 retweets and 13,000 likes.
On Monday, the New York Times editorial board wrote about the accident under the headline “This Tweet Captures the State of Health Care in America Today.” On Twitter, people registered their outrage that the cost of medical treatment could prevent someone from seeking urgent care.
According to a police report, the woman suffered no broken bones but her left thigh suffered a “serious laceration, exposing the bone” and would need surgery. She was taken to Boston Medical Center.
The accident happened at 5:30 p.m. Emergency medical officials arrived within minutes, according to the police report.
Jim Hooley, chief of Boston EMS, said an ambulance transporting people within the city would cost between $1,200 to $1,900 at most for patients with the most pressing needs, like resuscitation.
“We just worry about taking care of people,” Hooley said. “We don’t want to cause them more stress. We just want to reassure them that nothing bad is going to happen to them because of their inability to pay.”