Posted in Dispatcher Life

Striking Contrasts

I knew when I became a telecommunicator that I’d hear terrible things. It was just part of the job. I didn’t realize the depths to which they could go, though. Just yesterday, four calls in particular stood out, two pairs of calls, really.

My first call of the shift was from a mother calling 911 on her (young) teenage daughter for assaulting her and her other children. The daughter had just been sent back from a group home due to COVID-19 and was verbally and physically abusing the rest of her family. The mother sounded upset, hurt as well as angry, but also determined. She wants the daughter gone for the sake of her other children.

Hours later, I take a call from a frantic set of parents that their daughter is going to kill herself. A young teenager had climbed up onto the roof and was threatening to jump. The precipitating incident was the parents cutting off the girl’s internet access to prevent her from gaming online. Her parents sounded shocked and desperate. They just don’t want to lose her.

Two separate families, circumstances, etc., and yet both broken to the point of calling 911.

In the latter part of my shift, I get another pair of calls, this time for cardiac arrests. For emergency medical dispatch, these are the highest priority calls we have. Time is brain and brain is life.

Caller one was a frantic woman whose husband wasn’t conscious or breathing. She screamed at me to get an ambulance out there. I told her I’d gotten help started but we needed to do CPR. She said she couldn’t, and shrieked for an ambulance. We can’t say help is on the way in this state (lawsuit liability concerns), but I assured her that as soon as I had her address I’d let the aid crew know she needed help but we needed to start CPR immediately. More screaming, more swearing. This couple lived on the remote edge of the city, almost in a rural location so the nine minutes it took for the first aid car to get there is not wholly unexpected. Eventually I persuaded her to do CPR and she must have pumped on her husband’s chest fifty times. When the aid crew arrived, they said it wasn’t cardiac arrest and the patient was alive.

CPR is hard, for the giver and receiver. Usually if someone’s not in cardiac arrest, they immediately try to push their rescuer off. This patient didn’t and my trainer and I were both astonished. I sure wouldn’t want someone crunching my ribs 50 times.

The second caller was a woman whose uncle was unconscious and not breathing. Again, I asked her to start telephone CPR with me and she complied straight away. Everything I asked her to do, she did. She tried so hard, counted out loud with me, and did it for eight minutes. She just wanted help for her uncle and tried to keep it together to make a difference for him.

The aid crew and then the medics got on scene and worked for another thirty minutes. They asked for a chaplain. The patient didn’t survive.


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