Mom says that before daughter died, paramedics asked whether she could afford $600 bill

"My daughter ... screamed and begged them to take her to the hospital," Nicole Black said.
by Erik Ortiz /

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A week before she was found slumped over her bathtub, Crystle Galloway had given birth to her third child via Caesarean section. In the days that followed, she felt ill.

So when Galloway's mother, Nicole Black, was alerted by another grandchild on July 4 that "something is wrong with mama" in the bathroom, she frantically dialed 911.

Black said she never expected a life-saving call would end with her 30-year-old daughter's death.

"The EMS came. The whole conversation was that my daughter couldn't afford an ambulance because she had just had a baby. Did I want to spend $600 just to take her three blocks?" Black, 53, told NBC affiliate WFLA in Tampa last week.

The paramedics' seemingly laggard response led to four of them being placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation, Hillsborough County officials said. The responders face separate disciplinary hearings Tuesday; Black has demanded they be fired.

"My daughter begged for her life," she also told The Tampa Bay Times. "The only thing they were worried about was my daughter had a new baby and she couldn't afford an ambulance."

Nicole Black
Nicole Black says when paramedics were called to the home of her daughter, who was showing signs of a stroke, they asked if she could afford the ambulance bill instead of checking on her.WFLA

The incident began around 3 a.m. ET, when Galloway, who lives a few houses away from her mother, was found collapsed on the bathroom floor of her condominium in Temple Terrace, outside Tampa.

Black said Galloway's lips were swollen and she was drooling from her mouth. She moved her to a bed.

"I thought at first she hit her head on the toilet," Black told WFLA, but then believed she was having a stroke.

After paramedics arrived, she said she never saw them check Galloway's health. Two Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies also responded to the scene.

"They didn't do any vitals," Black said of the paramedics. "No blood pressure, no temperature, as my daughter is in the middle of her bed, under the covers, screamed and begged them to take her to the hospital."

Black said she decided she would take her daughter to the hospital herself, and "I began to beg to help me get her down the stairs."

Galloway, who remained responsive, was able to walk toward a stair chair and be taken downstairs with the paramedics' assistance, according to a report by county officials.

The entire call took about 13 minutes, records show.

Black said she drove her daughter to the hospital, where a CT scan showed bleeding in the brain. Galloway was transferred to another hospital and fell into a coma. She died July 9 — five days before her 31st birthday.

The local Hillsborough County Fire Fighters union disputed some of the events in a statement Friday and said it was the deputies who made an issue of the cost of an ambulance.

The first responders said the deputies told them that the "calling party only desired to have assistance with helping (Galloway) down three flights of stairs," according to the union.

It added that any claim that paramedics would have questioned having to transport Galloway "has absolutely no merit" because their ambulance is based at a hospital, and they were going to return there.

"The Hillsborough County Fire Fighters are committed to supporting the employees through this process with the intent of ensuring it is being conducted justly and fairly in that Hillsborough County officials do not overstep or steamroll these employees rights," the union said.

A separate investigation by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office cleared the deputies involved of any wrongdoing.

But in deciding to put the paramedics on leave, Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said that there's no excuse for the responders to not have done their due diligence.

"Our fire medics did not do their job," he said in a statement. "If the fire medics had taken the vitals, had done the assessment, they would have concluded, as our medical director has, that this woman needed to be transported by EMS to the hospital."

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