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Danger on the job: Paramedic gets attacked by patient

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POSTED: Friday, May 2, 2014 - 4:30pm

UPDATED: Monday, May 5, 2014 - 2:21pm

You may not think being an EMS worker is hazardous, but East Baton Rouge EMS Worker Dena Cassels said, you need to think again. She was trying to do her job when the patient she was trying to help attacked her.

Dena and other EMS workers said, they should get Hazard Pay like other emergency workers. Right now, state lawmakers are preparing to debate the issue.

"I was bleeding from the mouth," Cassels said.

Dena Cassels has three children, and by day, she's a paramedic. For the first time, Wednesday, she actually feared for her own life.

"I arrived on scene. There was an individual there who people had called an ambulance for, and basically got out and proceeded to ask just a couple of simple questions," Cassels explained.

After that, it's a blur.

"Two questions later, I had a fist in my face and saw stars in the concrete," Cassels said."That's about how much I can remember from that point on."

The patient she was trying to help punched her in the face leaving her with a busted lips and bloody hands.

"This individual was very calm and unsuspecting and caught me off guard," Cassels said.

Dena has seen her share of hostile situations. But in her nine years as a paramedic, she has never been attacked.

"There's been minor incidences, but nothing of this capacity where I've been physically injured," Cassels admitted.

Now Dena is demanding action from state lawmakers.

"Because just like fire and police, we do have a duty to respond and a duty to serve the public. A lot of times we are placed in some dangerous situations," Cassels said. "So the danger is just as real for us as it is with the other municipalities that respond to calls like that."

Right now, EMS workers are fighting to get hazard pay, just like firefighters and police.

"It kind of increases our value, so to speak, in terms of how other people view us. A lot of times we're just regarded as ambulance drivers, when in fact, we're in the same line of danger as the other entities," Cassels said.

So now, it comes down to a vote by the legislature.

"My biggest thing is I'd like to see something done about it," Cassels said.

Although she's shaken, Dena said, she's going to keep doing what she loves to do.

"That's why I got into this because I like to help people," Cassels said.

Paramedics are also fighting for increased criminal penalties for people who attack EMS workers. We'll let you know what happens.

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