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She saved a life. So why was this home care aid suspended?

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By CATHERINE VAN, KATU

LONGVIEW, Wash. (KATU) — Heather Jacobson started off the new year with a lot of uncertainty — whether she could pay her bills or afford her wedding.

Her fiancé is a U.S. Coast Guard member. He's directly impacted by the partial government shutdown and isn't currently getting paid while he's at sea.

Jacobson was suspended from her job in September, and she doesn't know if she still has a job.

"Very stressed because I'm having to handle everything in my own life including his, so it's been just a roller coaster," she said. "We have no idea what's going to happen."

Jacobson is a licensed home care aid worker with ResCare HomeCare in Longview. One of her clients is a quadriplegic. In August, she says his catheter got plugged. She offered to call 911 but says her client refused because of insurance issues. She knew she had to take the catheter out herself.

"He was sitting there getting worse and worse. He's got flush skin, his stomach's extended, he's almost throwing up," she said. "You can't just sit there and watch your client get sicker; that's not how it works. "

She says she has experience performing the procedure and made sure everything was sterile. But she didn't realize this might be beyond the scope of her license. Two weeks later, Jacobson got suspended without pay.

Barnard Baker, a spokesperson for ResCare HomeCare, says they are cooperating with the Washington Department of Health's investigation.

"ResCare HomeCare is always striving to provide the highest quality services to each individual we serve in the safest possible environment," he said in a statement.

Jacobson's license is still active. DOH is currently investigating the complaint against her.

Under Washington Administrative Code, her home care aid certification requires that she perform daily living activities such as "bathing, eating, using the toilet, dressing, and transfer."

Nothing specifically states she couldn't remove a catheter, but it does forbid her from performing "sterile procedures."

KATU called DOH to see if the Good Samaritan law would apply. The law protects people from consequences after taking immediate action to save someone's life. Medical professionals are also protected; they're held to a higher standard.

Jacobson says she's not upset with her employer, but hopes there's a change in policy so this won't happen in the future.

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