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Details of fatal injury lead some to question medical precautions

Posted by Ralph Ranalli April 29, 2008 07:36 AM

When Lauren Chang crumpled to the floor at the Minuteman Cheerleading Championships, the medic assigned to the competition was away from the action, restocking her supplies after treating three earlier injuries, according to the private ambulance company she worked for.

As she gathered more icepacks nearby, coaches and spectators rushed the mat, where Chang's team had just finished performing a 2 1/2-minute routine.

Amid the chaos of questioning voices and blaring music at Worcester's DCU Center, two registered nurses, both of them mothers attending the event, and several others checked Chang's pulse, listened to her heartbeat, and forced air into her lungs using a breathing bag that one of the rescuers found in a bag of medical supplies nearby. The panicked cheerleader fought her rescuers as she struggled to breath and at one point vomited blood, the nurses said.

A spokesman for American Medical Response, the private ambulance company contracted by the DCU Center, said its medic responded quickly to help treat Chang. But 20-year-old Lauren Chang died a day later. An autopsy showed her lungs had collapsed.

There would be still one more cheerleading injury that evening, during a competition that spectators later would say was filled with a freakish spate of accidents.

The death of Chang, a Newton North High School graduate, has parents and others scouring their memories of April 13, questioning the safety of the event and whether the medic on hand had been overtaxed.

By the time Chang went down at 7:20 p.m., the EMT already had already dealt with an asthma attack or fainting on stage, and a neck or back injury suffered in a fall during a stunt performed in the warm-up area, according to several witnesses.

Read more about the medical response to Lauren Chang's tragic injury in the online edition of today's City & Region section.

-- Erin Ailworth

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