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Park Rapids Family Questions Safety of Ambulance After Address Mix-Up

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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
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PARK RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) – After a mix-up in northern Minnesota, a family is questioning the safety of its ambulance service.

When Brenda Sordahl’s grandson needed help, the ambulance crew went to the wrong address in Park Rapids.

The Sordahl’s stay focused on the things Blake can do, rather than what he can’t.

“They were told that he was probably going to die when he was born,” Brenda Sordahl said.

Diagnosed with a rare disorder called Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, Blake is fed by a tube, can barely walk and at the age of eight has the brain capacity of an 18-month-old. So, when something goes wrong, his family knows how critical hospital care is.

“Minutes matter in any situation,” Sordahl said.

An episode in May had his care attendant calling 911. Blake couldn’t breathe and was having serious seizures.

“I was working six miles out of town and I beat the ambulance here and the ambulance is a mile from my house,” Sordahl said.

Records show a Park Rapids police officer arrived within five minutes.

It took an ambulance crew a total of seven minutes to get there. Sordahl says the crew blamed the delay on a dispatcher who mixed up the numbers in her address.

“The ambulance driver that was at my house told me that it was the second time that day that it had happened, that they were sent to the wrong address,” she said.

The hospital that dispatches the crew says that’s not the case.

All ambulance calls in Park Rapids are transferred 200 miles away to North Memorial’s Ambulance Service Center in Brooklyn Center, Minn. A spokesperson says they traced the Sordahl call to a GPS mix-up. The ambulances navigation system hadn’t been updated correctly so the crew was sent in the wrong direction.

North Memorial says the crew went two blocks away before turning around to head to Sordahl’s house.

The hospital couldn’t say if it had happened before.

“Everybody up here deserves better,” Sordahl said.

Blake ended up spending that day in the hospital. Doctors checked him out and determined he would be OK.

Another close call for a little boy that’s already been through so much.

North Memorial has 27 ambulance bases in 50 Minnesota counties.

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