Entries in 911 (4)


911 Dispatchers at Risk for PTSD, Research Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DEKALB, Ill.) -- The emergency dispatchers who remain calm and unemotional while handling 911 calls may not witness the carnage their front-line police and firefighting colleagues encounter, but they can be just as vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder from all they hear and imagine, researchers report.

The men and women who field 911 emergencies hear some of the most soul-searing sounds imaginable: the anguished wailing of gunshot victims, the final words of someone they can't deter from suicide or the last thoughts of workers trapped in the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.  But the stresses of their experiences sometimes haven't been considered traumatic because the dispatchers haven't left their computer consoles.

"This is a population of people who are routinely exposed to events that should be considered traumatic," said Michelle Lilly, a psychology professor at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., who co-authored a study assessing the psychological impact of the crises dispatchers experience from afar.  "People think of the job as stressful, but not really traumatic."

Lilly, head of NIU's Trauma, Mental Health and Recovery Lab, and research associate Heather Pierce, a former 911 dispatcher married to a police officer, analyzed surveys completed by 171 emergency dispatchers from 24 states.  The survey takers were asked to describe the worst calls they had handled.  The group comprised predominantly of white women just under the age of 39 with nearly 12 years on the job, according to the study published Thursday in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

Most said their worst experiences involved imperiled children or sending firefighters, police officers or emergency medical technicians who were friends and loved ones into harm's way.

"I was blown away by how upsetting some of (the incidents) would be for most people," Lilly said Wednesday as she described accounts of dispatchers talking parents "through CPR after they have discovered their child has drowned in the pool."

She was particularly shaken by a call involving two young siblings, one of whom had a mental health problem.  The healthy child called 911 and locked himself in a room for protection, but the dispatcher "could hear the sibling trying to take the hinges off the door and intending to attack."

All the dispatcher could say was, "Help is on the way.  We'll get there as fast as we can," Lilly said.

Such situations can engender feelings of fear, helplessness and horror which, when unaddressed, can set the stage for PTSD.  Lilly and Pierce found that 3.5 percent of the survey respondents reported symptoms "severe enough they probably would qualify for a diagnosis of PTSD," Lilly said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Woman Saved by Wrong Number 

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio) -- Loretta Smith, 70, of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, is back home from the hospital Friday. She was having a stroke last week when she tried to call her son. Instead she got Kenny Crater, 28, a student who lives in Broomfield, Colo., near Denver. It was a mis-dialed call that ended up saving her life.

“If I would have kept laying on that floor, I would have died,” Smith told ABC News.

Last Saturday, Smith was sitting on her bed when the right side of her body went numb. She fell off of her bed and landed on her left arm, the only arm that she could move.

“I was scared to death. A million things go through your mind,” she said.

Thinking that she was on the brink of death, Smith flailed about, trying to free her arm. In the process, Smith knocked into her dresser. Her phone fell out of its holster on the dresser and landed next to her left hand.

Smith tried to dial her son’s number, but dialed one digit incorrectly and instead got Crater on the line in Colorado. Instead of hanging up, he listened to her tell him that she was having a stroke and where she lived. He then called his closest police department, the Broomfield Police Department, who transferred him to Cuyahoga Falls police.

In a recording of his call to Cuyahoga Falls Police, Crater can be heard trying to describe the unusual situation.

Crater: I’m in Broomfield, Colorado right now, somebody [sic] was asking -- they’re having a stroke and they called my phone. … It sounded like an older woman.

Dispatcher: Do you know who it is?

Crater: I have no idea who it is. It’s just a freaky thing that she called me …

He gave them her address and phone number. Dispatchers then called Smith and had her describe the situation. Paramedics arrived at her house within the hour and she was taken to Summa Western Reserve Hospital where she was treated.

Smith said that doctors told her that it was a good thing that she got to the hospital so quickly and a few hours more could have caused irreparable damage.

Crater dismissed Smith’s portrayal of him as a hero.

“All I did was answer a phone and made a phone call. I kind of think it’s silly that the world is that hard up for heroes,” he said. He even thinks that it is Smith who should be described as a hero.

“She was the one who was having a stroke and still gave me all of her information. She was the one who survived the stroke,” he said.

But Smith will always credit Crater and his kindness for saving her.

“He’s like my guardian angel…Kenny Crater, he’s my hero,” Smith said.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Two-Year-Old ‘Superhero’ Saves Mom’s Life

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Lia Vega is only 2, but her mother is calling her a superhero. The little girl made a phone call Thursday that saved her mother’s life.

Lia was at her grandmother’s house in Houston with her mother, Larissa Taylor, and her baby sister when Taylor blacked out and collapsed, according to Houston affiliate KTRK-TV. Lia picked up her mother’s phone and called her grandmother, Bobbie Gonzalez, for help.

“She said, ‘My mom fell down,’” Gonzalez told KTRK. “I said, ‘Let me talk to your mom.’ And she said, ‘She won’t wake up.’”

“I never taught her how to use the phone, so I have no idea how she picked it up. I assume just by watching us,” Taylor said.

Gonzalez called 911 and rushed home, and Taylor got to the hospital just in time. There, she got an unexpected diagnosis: diabetes. Taylor told KTRK she never knew she was diabetic.

Dr. Lee Green, a professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan, said Taylor might have simply missed the symptoms of the disease or confused them with something else. The classic symptoms of diabetes -- dehydration, increased urination, fatigue and headache -- can seem a lot like a simple virus or the flu.

“This is someone who might have been feeling lousy for a while,” Green said.

However minor the symptoms might seem, he added, they are worth a visit to the doctor’s office.

Taylor said her story can serve as a lesson to other mothers about teaching their children how to use the phone in an emergency, especially if they have medical problems.

Lia is getting lots of love and praise from her family for her quick thinking. “She’s been wearing a towel around the house, calling herself a superhero,” Taylor said. “Definitely, she’s my little superhero.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Campaign Encourages Women to Recognize Heart Attack, Dial 911

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Heart disease is the number one killer of women.  An American woman suffers a heart attack every minute.  Yet after years of public education programs, the message hasn't penetrated and many women can't detect the signs.

The "Make the Call, Don't Miss a Beat" campaign, unveiled Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services and its Office on Women's Health, wants women to learn to recognize signs of a heart attack, especially the signs they're likely to dismiss.

The campaign also emphasizes the importance of dialing 911 if women experience one or more of those signs with an intensity and persistence they've never felt before, delivering its message through print and broadcast public service advertisements, billboards and public transit ads, and with testimonials of heart attack survivors.

The underpinning of the campaign is clear: getting appropriate medical attention within an hour of a heart attack halves the risk of dying.

In 2006, an American Heart Association survey conducted every three years found that 79 percent of women reported that the first thing they would do if they thought they were having a heart attack was to call 911.  But in the 2009 survey, "we were shocked that only 53 percent of women said they would call 911 first," said Suzanne Haynes, senior science adviser for the Office on Women's Health and director of the campaign.

Women easily overlook or excuse subtle symptoms that can end in a heart attack, as well as many acute symptoms during a heart attack, said Dr. Lori Mosca, director of preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and one of the campaign's developers.

The seven major signs you are having a heart attack are:

1. Unusual or unexplained fatigue unrelated to exercise.

2. Unfamiliar dizziness or lightheadedness.

3. Unexplained nausea, vomiting.

4. Sharp pain in the upper body, including the neck, back and jaw.

5. Severe shortness of breath.

6. Heavy pressure on the chest, which may feel like indigestion, heartburn, fullness or squeezing, lasts more than a few minutes and may abate before returning.

7. Cold sweats that do not resemble the hot flashes associated with menopause.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio