First NYC EMT to contract HIV on job honored 20 years after death

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An EMT who became the first emergency responder in New York City to contract HIV while treating a patient is being honored on Monday, 20 years after her death. Tracy Allen Lee, who was working as an FDNY emergency medical technician and was 17 months into the job when she contracted the virus, is being honored with a memorial stone marker outside an East Harlem EMS station, the New York Daily News reported.

In Nov. 1989, Lee responded to a call involving an AIDS patient who was bleeding to death and ripped her glove while pulling the man into the hallway for treatment. She later realized the nail that cut her glove had cut her hand, and that the patient’s blood had mixed with her own, the news outlet reported.

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She filed a report but tested positive for the virus in May 1994.

“I was 31 when she died,” Victor Lee, the 34-year-old’s widow, told the New York Daily News. “When you’re that age, you think you’re invincible. We were going to grow old together and have kids.”

Though her request to have her diagnosis designated as a line-of-duty illness was denied, Lee continued office work with the FDNY. She died in Sept. 1997 after falling into a coma. In 1998, New York passed a law requiring all rescue works infected with HIV on the job to automatically get line-of-duty injury designation, the news outlet reported.

“I still think about her every day,” Adelaide Connaughton, a retired EMS Lt. who worked closely with Lee, told the New York Daily News. “I can’t believe it’s been 20 years. It seems like yesterday.” 

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