Called a Hero

  1. February 28, 2003 New York Region
    The New York Times

    Called a Hero in a Fire, a Nurse Demurs


    HARTFORD, CT - Feb. 27-The alarm at the Greenwood Health Center sounded in the middle of the night. Marian Schumaker, the supervising nurse, saw the flashing red light on her indicator box.

    She ran nearly 200 feet. Toward the flames, not away from them.

    Ms. Schumaker, 60, has been hailed by officials here for having rescued patients from the flames and thick smoke of a fire that killed 10 people and injured 23 in a deadly fire at the nursing home on Wednesday. A veteran nurse who had worked as an emergency technician in Tarrytown, N.Y., she was in charge of a staff of 11: three nurses and eight nurses' aides. Through the night, they cared for 148 patients, many of whom were elderly and infirm.

    "She was a hero," Deputy Fire Chief Daniel Nolan said. "She didn't want to leave."

    Ms. Schumaker denies that she was a hero. She said she did what anyone would have done-and did it without much thought. "You have 10 seconds to get yourself together and ask, `What am I going to do?' " she said. "Then you have to act."

    Although her recollections of what she did that night are hazy, witnesses recall her pulling patients from the fire despite burns on her hands. They recall her leading the professionals into the very heart of the blaze. "It felt like your clothes were going to melt," Ms. Schumaker said. "It was very, very scary. The smoke was in your lungs all the time-in every breath you took it was there."

    Ms. Schumaker said the real hero was the first firefighter who arrived on the scene as she stood by the patients. "He said, `I'm here now. It's time for you to go,' " she said.

    She did go, but only after the Police and Fire Departments had arrived. She was hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation, but hours later, when the hospital released her, she went back to the nursing home to see whether her staff members or patients needed help. "It takes a lot to get me down," she said. "You can only cry so much. Then you have to get back to the routine."
    Last edit by -jt on Mar 1, '03
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    About -jt

    Joined: Oct '00; Posts: 2,662; Likes: 46


  3. by   psychonurse
    That is what nursing is all about.......caring about our patients......that is really great and good pr for nurses.....
  4. by   RNonsense
    Wow...Florence herself would be proud. Thanks for sharing.
  5. by   BMS4
    I definitely have a new hero. Thanks for sharing the story.
  6. by   Rustyhammer
    I wish I had an e-mail address for her to tell her she has done all nurses proud!
  7. by   nursedawn67
    A true doubt!
  8. by   psychonurse
    I agree with Rusty........
  9. by   -jt
    NY Daily News
    Feb 27, 2003;

    Hartford Fire Chief Charles Teale said [Marion Schumacher] - who was treated for smoke inhalation - was "a bona fide hero" in light of the nightclub tragedy in Rhode Island last week.
    The nursing home may have been understaffed........
    Last edit by -jt on Mar 1, '03
  10. by   cwazycwissyRN
    she is a person that makes you feel proud just to be a nurse she defines the definition of what we are suppose to be extremely strong and committed. big thanks to such a nurse
  11. by   catrn10
    My goodness! Where did all the other staff members go?..Cat
  12. by   -jt
    The New York Times
    March 1, 2003

    Suspect in Nursing Home Fire Is Cooperating With Inquiry


    HARTFORD, CT - Feb. 28-Four nursing home patients remained in critical condition and eight others were still being treated in local hospitals as the police continued to investigate the deadly fire that swept through the Greenwood Health Center early Wednesday morning.

    The primary suspect, a 23-year-old Hartford woman with multiple sclerosis and a history of drug abuse who was admitted to the nursing home less than a month ago, is cooperating with investigators. Detectives are interviewing other patients and gathering additional evidence at the nursing home where 10 severely disabled patients were killed by the fire, which filled the corridors with blinding smoke and hampered rescue efforts.

    "At this point we have not determined what the cause of the fire was," said Lt. Paul B. Hammick, commander of the major crimes division of the Hartford Police Department. He denied a newspaper report this morning that said high-ranking police officials believed the fire started when the suspect, Lesley Andino, accidentally set her bed sheets on fire at 2:30 a.m. with a cigarette lighter.

    "It is not the official position of this division that this is an accident," Lieutenant Hammick said. "More than a dozen detectives, practically our entire staff, are working in one way or another on this case."

    He said it would take some time for evidence seized at the home to be thoroughly analyzed so that fire investigators can determine how and where the fire started. Only then, he added, would a determination be made about whether the fire was set intentionally or accidentally, and whether criminal charges would be brought.

    As the investigation proceeds, Connecticut lawmakers and nursing home advocates are preparing for a public hearing on Tuesday to look at some of the troubling issues raised by the fire. In particular, the legislators want to examine the appropriateness of placing young patients with mental or emotional problems in nursing homes designed to handle mostly elderly patients with physical disabilities. They are also concerned with and intend to pursue questions of staffing levels and fire safety.

    "This is a horrible tragedy and the worst part is that we are reacting to things that should already have been taken care of," said Teresa C. Cusano, the state's nursing home ombudsman for the last six years. "A 23-year-old woman does not belong in a nursing home."

    Legislators will look into changing laws that require only newly built nursing homes to install fire sprinklers. They will also debate the adequacy of current staffing requirements.

    On the night of the fire, 12 employees were on duty at Greenwood, caring for 148 patients, most of whom were so disabled they could not move on their own when the fire started. Yet, the staffing level met state requirements.

    "If there had been more sprinklers and more staff in place, we would not have had 10 people dead," said Mrs. Cusano, whose office investigates complaints and has the power to seek administrative action against nursing home operators.

    She said she did not expect any action against the operators of Greenwood, which had recently passed fire safety inspections and apparently was meeting all codes and requirements.

    "I don't fault Greenwood," Mrs. Cusano said. "What I fault is the system, and the system has to change."

    This afternoon, Marian Schumaker, the 60-year-old nursing supervisor who burned her hands when she made several attempts to evacuate patients before firemen forced her to leave, showed up for work, going back to some of the same rooms and hallways where she had witnessed the horror earlier in the week.

    "Of course you relive it," she said. She refused to say whether there had been any unusual tension in the nursing home in the days before the fire indicating tensions or problems among patients.

    "It is not in the realm of my role to talk about that," she said.

    Veronica Cretella, the administrator of Greenwood, told reporters this afternoon outside the nursing home that family members and visitors would be welcomed into the center this weekend to check on the patients who remain in the areas of the home not damaged by the fire.

    Some families have complained that they have not been allowed inside to see their relatives.

    The owners of Greenwood, the Lexington Health Care Group of Farmington, Conn., have said they plan to meet with creditors to discuss the company's deepening financial problems. The company purchased Greenwood in 1997.

    Union leaders representing the health care workers at Greenwood, who went on strike in 2001, said the company is close to declaring bankruptcy.

    Lexington operates eight nursing homes in Connecticut with a total of 1,033 beds, according to the company's most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    Dennis Steele, a founder of a private organization called Member of the Family, which collects and disseminates information on the nation's nursing homes, said Greenwood had several complaints for having caused harm to patients in the last few years, according to government records.

    "They show a trend that isn't very good," Mr. Steele said.

    The company has not responded to requests for comment.
  13. by   -jt
    <<I wish I had an e-mail address for her to tell her she has done all nurses proud!>>

    maybe her state nurses association can forward it to her:
    or maybe she can read it in the letters to the editor column of the NY Times, which published articles on the story these last few days:
    Last edit by -jt on Mar 1, '03
  14. by   jemb
    i'm sending an e-mail to the letter to editor address at the new york daily news , where the first---oops, the second--- story in this this thread came from. that story was written by joe mahoney and tracy connor, if you want to reference it.

    address is

    i'm including a request that a copy of the e-mail be forwarded to ms schumacher.

    edited to include my "oops"
    Last edit by jemb on Mar 2, '03