Shyteria Shoemaker died after her family called 911 and discovered their town’s emergency room had been shut down. 

On January 27, Shoemaker finished her shift at a restaurant in Houston, Mississippi, and went to visit her cousins at their home. The Mississippi Clarion-Ledger reports she sat down on her cousin’s bed and soon began to have trouble breathing. 

The 23-year-old mother had had breathing problems before; she had asthma and carried an inhaler and slept with a breathing mask. This attack, however, was worse than usual. 

She managed to call out to her cousins for help before collapsing onto the floor. 

One of Shoemaker’s cousins, LeParishe Shoemaker, and his girlfriend immediately called 911.

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Given Trace Regional Hospital is only eight minutes away from LeParishe’s house, he and the other cousins in the home decided to drive Shyteria to Trace for help.

On the way, Shyteria’s cousin, LeKearis Shoemaker, called 911 again to coordinate care. That’s when the 911 operator told the family Trace’s emergency room had been shut down. 

"I was like, 'What the f**k do you mean there's no ER?'" LeKearis said. "Every other place has an ER."

The Chickasaw Journal reports the emergency room was shut down in 2014 as a cost-saving measure. Trace officials said $2 million per year was too much to spend to keep the emergency room, the only one serving the rural community of Houston, Mississippi, open.

In 2017, city officials hired a medical company called CareMed to station two ambulances in Chickasaw County, of which Houston is a part, to replace the shuttered emergency room. 

The operator told LeKearis to take Shyteria to the town’s fire station instead and said firefighters would be waiting for them. 

When the Shoemakers arrived, Shyteria was unconscious. Two firepeople were waiting, as promised, but the cousins were underwhelmed by the help they offered. Growing increasingly desperate, the cousins decided to drive Shyteria to a proper hospital where she could receive more comprehensive treatment. 

On the way, the Shoemakers encountered a patrol car; they stopped and waved at the officer inside. 

"He looked like he was shocked … like he was scared, like we were gonna rob him," LeParishe said.

The cousins say the patrol officer got out slowly, hand on his taser, and told them to get on the ground.

They complied but continued to try to ask the officer for his help.

The cousins were still stretched out on the cold ground begging for assistance when another officer arrived. LeParishe said the second officer told them they "were too loud, too rowdy."

Firepeople arrived and tried to revive Shyteria. Fourteen minutes after the cousins arrived at the fire station, an ambulance arrived.  

The ambulance had taken 26 minutes to come to get Shyteria because it was the only one in service; CareMed’s CEO said the driver of the second ambulance, the one meant to service Houston, had called out due to a family emergency. 

Once the one available ambulance finally came, Shyteria was driven to the closest emergency room, which was 20 miles away. Doctors tried to resuscitate her, but she and her unborn child died.

Shyteria’s family and the Houston community want answers but have gotten few. The town’s police chief has refused to comment on the mother’s death; the fire chief told local news outlets his firepeople followed procedure. 

Makeska Shoemaker, Shyteria’s mother, is now raising Shyteria’s 1-year-old daughter A’Dore. 

Like her mother, A’dore has asthma, and Makeska says she will never allow the little girl to live in Houston. Instead, the grandmother and daughter now live in Aberdeen, Mississippi, where A’Dore can receive medical attention quickly should she suffer a severe attack. 

Makeska said she hopes Houston will reopen its emergency room; however, according to the Journal, the most recent attempts to do so failed. 

"It don't make no sense,” Makeska said. “We got too many people living in Houston not to have a hospital or ER where they can go to.”

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