Sunday, June 28, 2020

The call of Grace

I thought my life was too busy prior to the “safe at home” world we live in. One thing I have realized, even with more free time on my hands is that I have fallen into some weird slump of laziness. Excuse after excuse you can say, is something I have come up with to not do what I ought to do. First, there was not enough time and now there's "too much" time. Is that even such a thing? So during this new normal of social distancing and staying at home, I have found myself making a life on twitter and clearing my DVR.        I have all these projects and writings I want to finish but now I just sloth around even more. Bleh!

Finally, I watched the season finale of "9-1-1 Lone Star" and I want to again applaud Tim Minear and his writing team for a job well done at making the stories of 9-1-1 realistic with an entertaining twist. I can tell you stories all day but with the twist of Hollywood magic, of course, they all of a sudden are that much more interesting. I've come clean with my opinion before, I do politely give the raised eyebrow with some of the technical things, but even for me the show is entertaining enough to make me feel like it's believable.

Now moving on to the nitty-gritty of the episode, you may think the 9-1-1 dispatcher Grace getting the call from the space station is far-fetched. Believe it or not in reality that could really happen...I think. Don't get me wrong I'm not an expert on phone and radio communications but I'm sure one of my radio head colleagues could totally elaborate on that subject but come on, part of the purpose of my blog is to let you live through my eyes while I share the real-life, whether 9-1-1 or random stuff but certainly it is not to put you to sleep with propeller head information. 

So, I've gotten a call misrouted all the way from Italy once. You can thank the Voice over Internet provider (VOIP) numbers for this. Often, we get calls from other states because the company’s main office may be in my state, yet the office they are calling from is in another and all the extension lines they're using are from the main office. In another instance, sometimes people move and because paperwork moves at snail mail speed, the phone line information is not updated in a timely manner, and when you dial 9-1-1, you're stuck talking to me and then yes it's my job to figure out which dispatch center I need to route you to. Once again, another reason why we ask you to verify your address. Believe it or not, I've been cursed at over these things. I recall a person telling me I was stupid and to use my screen to figure out the address. Okay fine. I dispatch the units to the location you say is on my screen, well guess what? 8 minutes into the call, the caller is yelling at me, “WHY ARE THEY NOT FUCKING HERE YET!?”

“Ma'am, may I confirm your address?” I asked.

“The fucking information is on the screen.”

"Yes, ma'am, they are on their way to 1234 Main Street.”

*caller gasps* “uh no, no oh my gosh! I moved 6 months ago!”

“Okay ma'am, can I have your current location please?”

“4321 First Street.” The caller says.

“Okay ma'am, please give me a moment while I connect us with your correct department.”

And of course the process starts all over again and precious time was wasted. Thank goodness it's not every call but people certainly get quite upset with all the “stupid ass questions” we ask, like what is your address?

The character 9-1-1 dispatcher Grace was on the line with an astronaut who knew he was dying and she obliged by his wishes and connected him to his wife. He so affectionately said his last words and had laughs with his young daughter. It was a heartfelt exchange where you saw Grace's pain in her eyes and before the episode ended she was breaking down in tears. I felt Grace's pain when I saw the defeat she was feeling and how she felt she needed to hold it together while sitting at the phone console.

As the phone disconnected and the astronaut took his last breath, I was taken back to the emotion I have experienced many times during my 14-year tenure, and because I could feel it, that alone is something I consider great writing.

Operator 43, what is your emergency?
*breathing heavily with gasps and fumbling noises.*

"I can't - I can't - I can't breathe!"

"Sir, I don't want you to talk more than necessary but I do need your address.  You're calling me from your cell phone"

**It's important to take note at this time because there was no accurate cellphone detection available, so he had to tell me where he was**

*man slowly blurts out address with exhaustion*

"Sir, I hear a lot of noise in your background, please I need you to sit down and breath in slowly through your nose and out of your mouth."


"Ok sir just tell me yes or no, did you use your inhaler?"

"All, all gone"

"Okay sir, I have help on the way to you please concentrate on breathing."

*hears thud*

"Call my, my wife! she, she's next door! inhaler!"

"Sir, please save your breath, help will be there soon."

*slowly gives me his wife's phone number.*

"Okay sir, I'm calling your wife."

I didn’t connect the call with him immediately, because often times when you make a call to a loved one and the patient is on the phone they will blurt out something. This could then cause the loved one to panic and your call is taken over mostly by cries or screams and you can never gain control back. So instead, I choose to announce myself and give a small detail.

“Ma'am this is 911, we do have help on the way to your residence for your husband who is having a medical emergency. I am going to connect us but please be assured help is coming.” However, in this case the phone rings and she never picks up. I disconnect her line and go back to the patient.

"Sir, she did not pick up."

"Unblock number! She doesn't pick up blocked numbers."

"Sir, I have no way of unblocking the number."

"Please try again"

*Clicks back over and attempts a call. No answer.*

I come back to the line and he is still breathing.

"She, she has inhaler! mine empty."

"Sir, keep breathing."

I hear sirens in the background. His breaths are so shallow and slow.

"Tell her...tell her I love her."

I hear the knocks at the door. I advise the radio dispatcher to tell the units the patient is down and can't get to the door and to break in. The phone drops. No breaths.

"Sir! I need you to breathe with me!"

I hear a deep wheezing gurgle, then one last gurgle.

I hear the medics: "Sir! Sir, can you hear me?"

I know he can't hear them, he's gone. The sound of a person's last breath is something you will never forget. I sit there sad; my next caller is in my ear and needs my full attention. I give them all I got. I disconnect from the next caller and watch my status screen from the previous call. The medics did not transport the patient and that's my confirmation that he did not make it. He died in his home with his wife next door.

Some days are difficult.
Here I was holding my breath to hold back my tears.
Superheros don't cry.

Even though this particular call was earlier in my career, when I get calls like that now, those are the times I really sit back and remove myself from the job and I realize what I actually do for a living. While I'm sad about the situation, I think about all the people I was able to save, and had I not been there the outcome could have been dismal. After the quick reality check, I'm typically able to go on without a fuss or worry. I will admit, each year is getting more challenging to be able to pick myself up and keep going, but for now, I'm going to iron my superhero cape and put it back on.

Operator 43, what is your emergency? 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Just PICTURE Paradise

If you have been following my blog, then you know I fell into a format of sorts where I share a personal story and then it sequels to a relevant 9-1-1 call. In the past few weeks, I have had time to write and I stacked up a few posts to be consistent. The only problem with this is the fact that the posts all had some sort of sad tune to them. Although I know you all appreciate the reality of my 9-1-1 world, I just feel like some hope is something I should share. Today's post was inspired by a twitter conversation with my twitter friend @SaraJaneKehler. Check her out at  I know it may sound weird to have a friend you have never met in person but I have some really supportive people in the twitterverse. This is especially so now that practically the entire world has been practicing some sort of social distancing. The World Wide Web has created some great platforms for nurturing new friendships. The writing community on twitter has a really good support system for people like me who are venturing out into the world with their passion for storytelling.

 When I began this job, I was really behind financially. A little over a year in and I was still trying to catch up and I found this apartment I wanted to rent. The problem was at the time the owners wanted a USD 2500 deposit that I did not have and they wanted USD 1200 a month.1200 was above my comfort zone and I was honest about it. The apartment was really perfect and I was sad about not being able to rent it. I eventually got a phone call from the owners and they asked me what my plans were for a place to stay since I was looking. I told them I would just find a place on "Apartment Row" in an adjacent city for 925 a month. After a discussion and another phone call, they said they noticed I had a good government job and would like to offer the place at 925. I took it but told them I would not be able to move in on the first as I would not have the 2500 until the 15th. It was a total fib. I started to think of what I could do to get the money together without borrowing.  

At work, a colleague needed some coverage for some days but didn't want to use vacation time, instead she agreed to pay cash for the days she needed covered.    I agreed to work multiple days throughout the year since I knew I would need the extra cash to catch up. I also had this new rent payment and needed items for my place. I never thought she would give me a lump sum before working the days, but that was exactly what she did. So the lump sum plus what I had left in my bank account paid for my deposit.

After my deposit was paid it was going to be a long stretch until the next payday since all my regular bills were due and I had to pay all the deposits at the apartment to get electricity and gas turned on. There I was happy in my empty place with my mattress on the floor, just grateful to have a place of my own which I could call home.

I had a few necessities but not all. I needed some cleaning supplies and a pot to cook in so I headed to 99 Cents only store and then to the Goodwill second hand store. At the 99 Cents only store, I found a glass that had happy faces all over it.    It just made me happy and although it was not in my budget even at 99 cents, I bought it because I've always been one to put my happiness above all. Once I arrived at the Goodwill store, I grabbed the pot I needed and as I was headed to the register I found the most amazing picture. It was a framed picture of a white sand beach. Many people would call it a beach paradise. I had exactly enough money for the picture but not both the picture and the pot. I had to make choice. The choice was the picture and again my happiness won. I went home and hung it in my bathroom above my tub. It was my personal vision board and I just absolutely knew that every day I would look at the picture and be happy to dream about going to that beach one day. 

My beach paradise above hangs above
 my bathtub

As time went on, I would often think about making it to the beach in the picture. One day, my friends called me and said they had a surprise for me. They made a deposit for them and me to go on a cruise. Everyone knows I am the vacation planner, so for me to sit back and let them plan it all was something huge. Honestly, I put no effort in even discussing the planning because I had a feeling they would all flake before it was time to go. I have planned so many trips which ended up with me going solo so I was used to the disappointment of them not going. Time went on and everyone kept up with their deposits and we eventually set sail.

Days in on the cruise, our next destination was a small Bahamian island called Half Moon Cay. It's owned by the cruise lines so it's one hundred percent private and the only way there, is by boat. There isn't even a dock for the cruise ship; it drops anchor in the middle of the ocean and boats transport people to and from the ship. As the ship got closer to land, all I could do was cry. What was in front of me was the picture in my bathroom. It looked identical! Here I am in my swimsuit boohooing and my friends don't understand what is going on. Through my mumbling tears, I tell them I will explain later. Seeing the replica of my bathroom picture was just reinforcement that dreams do come true! I was touched by my experience I even wrote a poem about it.

Just Picture Paradise

Once upon a time I was down and out.

Broke and bare and wanted to pout.

I went to the Goodwill and didn't have much money,

but I was in my new apartment with no plates and pans

and I needed some things so I wouldn't have to eat with my hands.

I walked past this really great picture,

of a beach with all white sand.

I stood and stared at the picture and said one day

I wanna lay in that blue water and enjoy the breeze.

I needed inspiration because I didn't have a lot.

Only had money to buy the picture or the pot.


I chose the picture instead.

I knew if I bought the picture I would dream about it much.

And one day I would have lots of good luck.

One day when things in my life were a lot better,

I sailed on the ocean blue and went far far away.

Then we approached the dock and there was Half Moon Cay.


I recognized this place at sight.

I knew it because I had seen it every day.

The picture I bought at the goodwill

really did give me some goodwill in a major way.

It kept me thinking about the day I would be able to go to paradise and lay.

From that day on I knew that dreams come true

as I laid in the sand and swam in the beautiful ocean blue

My happy place

And yes, the picture still hangs over my bathtub as a reminder to keep dreaming. So, as we are going through these difficult times due to the pandemic and war on social injustice I want you all to visualize a better future. It may not happen overnight but one thing I can tell you is that it will happen perfectly when the time is right.

All smiles in the beautiful blue sea

Saturday, April 18, 2020

9-1-1 is my life

My intentions were never for my blog to be about my life as a 9-1-1 dispatcher, although it can certainly be said that 9-1-1 is my life. For this post, I have chosen to switch it up and give you a little more of "Only Barb". I remember a time when being human and making a mistake so to speak was just that. If you hurt someone’s feelings, they would speak up and tell you and then you would apologize and life goes on. However, the case is very much different now, if you hurt someone’s feelings you're sent to the Human Resources department with some sort of harassment claim. If you're like me, then you are stuck in the middle of two generations. The generations of speaking up and solving the problem and the new system of ‘go tell the boss someone is bothering you’.

It is crucial to say that even when people were more straightforward with each other there were still some who were shy and needed assistance to speak up for themselves because they could not do it on their own. I am not against this in any way. Bullying and any part of being unkind is just wrong to me.

You will not believe how many times I have wanted to write and share a post with all of you who have signed on to know more about me but I'm afraid of offending someone. Last week, my friend and I sat in on a training class, my instructor who is only 12 years my senior directed a question to the both of us.
He said, "are you girls doing okay back there?" Before we could answer, he jumped in with an apology as if we were offended and asked if we preferred ladies or women. Why is it that we have to worry about so many grey lines of being P.C. now? In this scenario, I know he did not mean it in an offensive context. I'm old enough to decipher between a hidden meaning in the use of the word "girls" and when it’s used innocently. I think these rules and fear of consequences makes us a little less connected and a little less empathetic because we are always wondering about how NOT to break the rules.                 I watched "The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez"
Barb in 1987 at age 8. The same age 
Gabriel Fernandez died from abuse
in 2013.
story and although it has nothing to do with whether we can call grown women girls without being offensive or not, the climate of it all takes away people’s willingness to want to be involved because they are afraid of breaking a rule. I watched countless times in the docuseries how the abuse was reported over and over and no one did anything. I do not want to be crass and point blame at individuals but I do want to be clear with my point of view.

People have allowed the "stay out of it", "mind your own business", "I don't want anything to do with it" attitude to spill over far too much. The teacher consistently reported the abuse and was hushed by her boss telling her that it was out of their scope of help by law. At some point her hands were tied and she could not do anything else. There was a security guard who called his boss and his boss said we don't have anything in the manual that tells us what to do about this situation. He went a step further and told the employees of the social services office who said they could not get involved because they could not pay overtime to wait after hours for the investigation. I think all that is happening in relation to this, is a direct effect of us all being a part of the lawsuit age. This puts you in that ‘damned if you do and damned if you don't box’.

As I watched it all go down, it took me back to a time when I was taken away by the state to be placed into Foster Care custody. I remember being in the counselor’s office prior to this occurrence and I had been discussing my new living situation with her. She had asked some questions and I thought I was in a safe space and so I just rambled away. When she asked me why I was not staying with my legal guardian, my aunt, I told her I was staying with friends of my family due to the Northridge Earthquake damaging my aunt’s house and it was being repaired. She wasn't satisfied with my responses and decided to ask more questions. I opened right up and told her my aunt was abusing me and her boyfriend was sketchy and I never really wanted to return to her home and would rather stay where I was with my new mom and dad. At that point, the counselor said by law she had to call children services and report the abuse I spoke of. When the social worker showed up, she came in barking orders and told me I was going to have to go to McLaren hall. Back then most of us knew McLaren Hall as the "kiddie jail" where delinquents went. I was terrified and so I started crying. I could not understand why I was in trouble for telling what horrible things my adult did to me. The way the social worker was speaking to me, you could tell the counselor was quite upset with it. She told me to go to the bathroom and wash my face. While I was in the bathroom trying to control my tears, she walked in and said “don't ask any questions, just come with me. Where does your mom work?” she asked as we walked.

 The counselor got the needed information and then she whisked me away and took me to my mom’s job. After that, all hell broke loose with the social worker and police but the one thing I will never forget is how the counselor put her neck out for me that day because she did not feel comfortable leaving me in questionable care of the social worker who made it seem as though I had done something wrong. The abusive way the social worker came in and took over, the counselor felt she needed to do something. Was what she did right? By law probably not, but she acted like a person who didn’t want to see fear in a kid with uncertainty of protection, yes that is what she saw and she acted on it.

I have a feeling that if Gabriel’s teacher was born twenty years earlier she may have taken a more aggressive approach as far as getting him direct help. But with the ways things are now, fear makes it so difficult to act. People are afraid to do anything outside of the scope, whether it is right or wrong.


I am NOT placing any blame on the teacher. She put in multiple efforts to get Gabriel help but due to procedures and how things are today, her hands were absolutely tied. On a way smaller scale, I'm afraid to tell you some personal stories because only GOD knows if I will offend the wrong person. If I do offend the wrong person, I am certain that I will be the subject of a viral social media post. Things are so different in present day, and although I do  appreciate the strides we have made to make social interactions safer, I still think in some way they are misconstrued and we are pulled away from the idea of "just do something to help".

Take the following call for instance;

"Operator 43, what is your emergency?"
"I was driving home from work and I saw a person laying on the bus bench under a cover. I think you need to check on him. "
 "Okay, can you tell if the person needs medical assistance?"
"I'm not really sure. I don't think he is breathing." 
"Did you yell out your window or honk your horn to see if they need help?"
"No, I am not going to do your job! Your salary is paid for by me and you need to just do your job and get here!"
"Yes, I have dispatched units already but often times when people call about a person down on the ground, it tends to be someone just sleeping."
 "I know they ain't sleeping! I told you they need help!"
"Okay thank you for your call, help is on the way."
"Can you hurry and get here!?"
 "Please be assured, help is on the way."
"Good! Cause the person has been there since I drove past them this morning on my way to work."
"Oh, this morning was there movement?"
"No, that's why I think they are dead. They are in the same spot as this morning. I just thought someone else would have called by now to check. "
"No, we don't have any calls to that location."
"So you mean I am the only one who cared enough to call."
"Yes, and thank you for caring."
"Okay, I hope you can help him. I hear the sirens, thank you."

"Radio squelch"
"Dispatch cancel all units person sleeping only"  

In this case, yes the person was sleeping and did not need any medical help however sometimes that's not the case. No matter what if you see something, say something.  I'd much rather send help and the person is found sleeping versus not sending help at all and the outcome is not positive because a person thought someone else would have called.  

Monday, March 30, 2020

Who is that woman?

It may seem unusual to know that the very thing I do daily as a career, 
I also go home and watch on a scripted television show. In my previous post, I described the contrast between the  dual   9-1-1 television shows, and how realistic they are in comparison to the real thing. Episode 2 of 9-1-1 Lone Star, titled "Yee Haw" had a scene where a woman called to report a fire from her neighbor’s yard. Once the source of the fire was revealed as an in-ground smoker for barbecue, slowly the story unfolded to reveal how she has disdain for the neighbor and not because of his actions but where he is from.

During their exchange, in front of the crew, the male neighbor proclaimed "The crazy lady called the police on us while we were having a birthday party for my daughter."
She replied, "Yeah because you were waving around bats."
"It was for the pinata!"

The argument neared an end and it was determined that she is prejudiced and wants her Mexican neighbor to be penalized. 
As the fire crew on scene listened to the neighbors’ argument, they made a citizen’s arrest against her for being a nuisance and making repeated unnecessary 9-1-1 calls. She was appalled at the fact that she was being arrested because as she put it, "I am an American citizen.”

In response to that, the fire captain told her, “then you should know the laws about making unnecessary calls.” She then claims to have chest pain and having a heart attack. So the crew agree they can't arrest her at the moment and the medic crew moves in to assist her, however a dilemma evolved from it all. This was due to the fact that the crew so conveniently comprised of a Muslim woman with a hijab, a black male who is transgender, and a gay man. When they tried to help her, she immediately declined help from the Muslim woman, and asked for one of the guys, and noting her prejudice, he told her he is gay. Her last choice was that of the black male and she made sure to say, “See, I’m not prejudiced!” He said he would help her but wanted her to know he was a transgender man. At that point, because of her prejudice, she opted for jail as her symptoms seemed to have disappeared.

Living in the United States of America, specifically in a large urban city, I am often reminded we are a melting pot. Growing up in a highly populated urban city, diversity has always been the norm for me and this made me more curious and gave me a desire to want to learn more about different cultures. Often times, some people who are not exposed refuse to know about other cultures and have the idea of "this is America, you should be more American." Well, in my personal world and as operator 43, it doesn't matter who you are, and who you're not. At the end of my 9-1-1 line, myself and my colleagues will treat you all the same. When the call to 9-1-1 is placed, oftentimes it is the worst day of the caller’s life. We all recognize this and it is our job to get help to you as well as aid you while help is on the way.

Attending the "I Am That Woman" 2020 prayer breakfast,
Los Angeles, California

Sometimes, it is not as simple as that, as we face many challenges, between callers not knowing where they are calling from and only having a general idea of the location, it can be a daunting task. Now, insert the occasional caller who instead of giving their address would rather call you names. I've been called racial and gender-based derogatory names as well as being told I was stupid or did not have enough empathy because I am too calm or asking I am too many questions. I have also been threatened by callers. I can't help but think about the irony in how they are threatening me yet they have no way to get to me and in reverse, they had given me their address. I however know that such backward thinking most times stems from sheer panic. I've learned from life and this career that some thinking, whether backward or forward, will never change.

As operator 43, I keep my opinions to myself while in the middle of the call. I know that regardless of if the caller is prejudiced or not, the call could be stemming from a life or death scenario. I will always choose life for my callers, so I ignore the prejudiced remarks they sometimes utter. In my city, there are over 200 languages spoken so we have a translator line which can access any language you can think of. I have learned many cultural differences just by living and visiting places around my city. However, there are times I am faced with things I am not prepared for nor will I ever be able to accept as my own thinking. Take the following conversation for example:

"Operator 43, what is your emergency?"

(Inaudible words)

(Inaudible words)

"Sir, do you speak another language?"
(Inaudible words)

"Sir, I'm not able to understand you. Tell me the language you speak so I can get a translator."

"I would rather die before I let a woman help me!”

"Sir, please tell me your language so I can get you a translator."

(States language!)

"Okay sir, please hold on."

(Connects with language translator and request the language of the caller)

"Please hold for your language translator."

(Females voice) "I will be your language translator. "

"Sir I have the translator on the phone."
(Words spoken from man in foreign language)

translator: "Ma'am, he told me he does not want to speak to a, well, I can't say exactly what he said but he does not want to speak to a woman."

We both pleaded with him to get the information to send him help but he refused to allow us women to help him. Unfortunately, he was calling directly into the center, so I had no way of tracking him nor did I have a phone number to call him back with.

No matter what, the objective is always to get help to the caller. I never knew what his emergency was. The night went on and that was another caller, with another unknown outcome.

Next caller please.

Amazing women doing amazing things. Olympic Medalist
Tasha Danvers (left)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Is it like the TV show 9-1-1?

Is it like the TV show 9-1-1?

On the horizon of the 9-1-1 spin off, 9-1-1 Lone Star, the question comes up about how realistic the show is to my job.

The first season with Connie Britton playing Abby hooked me.  It was like watching the real life of my own center's personal stories.  For the most part many women in my center wear the same shoes like Abby by being the provider for their families. Their role can be in the capacity of taking care of their children, an aging parent or even other family members.  

To keep all of this in perspective it's important to remember the show is for entertainment value and certainly there is plenty.  Please know we will not be giving out tracheotomy instructions on the phone to be performed in the middle of the restaurant like Abby did to Buck during the Valentines Day episode, but we have to agree it had us on the edge of our seats hoping Buck would be okay.  Dispatchers dating field personnel happens on many occasions and sometimes those dates lead to marriages.  Even relationships within the center are not uncommon.   

 When Jennifer Love Hewitt came on as Maddie, the connection dynamic changed for me. She's more of a rebel dispatcher who strays away from protocol. Guess we should not expect much different since Buck, played by Oliver Stark, is her brother.  She's already dealing with a high stress life and walks into another high stress job.  After all she has been through, taking a break from the emergency medical field would not be a bad idea.  I think as dispatchers we have all ran off to help people in the heat of the moment during our time off however, I have not known anyone personally who ran off outside of the center to help someone they took a call from. No matter how small or large of a part we play, it is instilled in us all from day one of training to "just do something".

Beyond the love connections, when the center is running as a well oiled machine there is flexibility with days off,  long vacations are available, and the ability to attend important family events is an option.  In addition I get to bask in those great calls when I know I have made an impact like delivering a baby or calming someone down just enough to aid them step by step through life saving procedures.

Now I don't want to paint it all in a sunny light, because just as sunny as it can be there will be gloomy days too, like the character Maddie has experienced.

The stresses of trying to juggle the job and a personal life do exist. Not being able to spend special days and holidays with your family happens too.  Canceling plans because you have been recalled to work on your off day is a reality.  Being married or having a family at home can cause an issue on the days you're told "sorry you're not going home after your shift because six people have called out."     Try juggling that scenario with kids at the last minute.  You certainly need a support system to be available for those just in case days.  When a huge fire breaks out or any other natural disaster, be prepared to have a continuous sleep over and/or work with no days off until further notice.

Overall the job is not for everyone but the ones who it is for, I think we know there are ways we can improve our work environment but for the most part our pros outweigh the cons.

"Operator 43 what is your location?"

"I am on the freeway driving, and my husband is having chest pain."
"Okay I need you to safely pullover so we can find you. Which direction are you headed and what was the exit you last saw?"
"I'm too scared to pullover, I think I should drive straight to the hospital. He is in pain!"
"Yes, this is a scary situation and I'm here to help you through it, but you need to pull over at the next exit so we can find you."
"Okay, I'm just so nervous!  We were driving to our grandchild's graduation.  I don't think we are going to make it"
"Ma'am the paramedics and doctors will do their best. But I need you to pull over so I can get help to you."

At this point I know you're wondering have I sent the paramedics? 

This is where technology can help or fail.  There are many variables which come into play.  What type of phone you have, how the call was transferred to me and what type of signal the cell tower has.  So yes I can pinpoint you but sometimes if you're in an obstructed area the mapping is not accurate.  You moving on a freeway especially one going through hills and mountains, can distort the accuracy and I really do not know where you are.   In this case my map gave me an approximate location and I had dispatched the closet units, but with her continuing to drive, she's getting further ahead of the units en route.  

"Hunny I'm going to pull over so they can  help you okay?  Hunny?  HUNNY!!!  OH MY GOD!!! HUNNY! HUNNY!"

"Ma'am what's wrong?"
"I don't think he's breathing!  HUNNY!!"
"Ma'am I NEED you to pull over now! Pull over and tell me the last sign you saw."
"Okay the sign says exit 57"
"Perfect. Now listen to me step by step pull the car over safely put it in park. Turn on the hazard lights. Is the phone connected to Bluetooth?"
 "Don't turn off the car all the way so you can still hear me through the Bluetooth.  I want you to tell me can you feel air coming out of his nose and mouth?  Do you feel the chest and stomach rising?"
"NO! NO! nothing!"
"Okay listen get out of the car safely and quickly and go to the passenger door."
"Okay I'm here! Where are they!?!  What do I do?"
"Ma'am I want you to pull his legs out of the car and quickly pull him down to the ground.
"I Can't!  He's too heavy!"
"Ma'am once you pull his legs out, the top of the body will be easier to pull down. Come on, do this quickly"
"But the ground is dirty!"
"Ma'am he's not breathing, we won't worry about him getting dirty right now, we can clean him up later."
"Okay, okay!  I got him to the ground."
"Is he on his back?"
"Okay we're going to start CPR. I want you to take your hand and put it on top of his chest between the nipples placing your other hand on top of the first.  Holding your arms stiff and straight you're going to press down on the chest hard and fast at least two inches deep. I will start to count for you to keep the rhythm."
"I know! I know!  ah ah ah ah stayin' alive! Right?"
"Yes ma'am if you want to use that beat it works.  I will count with you."
"OMG!  Hunny you can't die on me!  You can't!"
"Ma'am please concentrate on the compression's for me okay? Hard and fast let's keep going!"
"I think I hear them!  I think I do!"
"Yes ma'am they are not far.  Keep going don't stop until they get to you."
"Oh my GOD they are here!"
"Thank you ma'am you did such a great job."

As I hear the paramedics say "Ma'am we're going to take over now.  Tell me what medical problems does he have? " I disconnect the phone. 

Even though I just finished drying my sad eyes, I had to find
 a smile and happiness to share in the moment.
I wished the couple on the freeway could experience
the same. 

That was my last call for the shift. I knew this day was a day I would not miss one of the important family events.  As I drove home knowing I was headed to a graduation too, I could not help but let the tears stream down my face.  It was bad enough the lady had to give her husband CPR on the side of the freeway but the part that made me cry was thinking I won't know what happened to him.  I thought about how that lady would call her kids and say hey we won't make it to the graduation.  Did she wait until she got to the hospital to make the call?  Did she wait until after the graduation so her own kids would not race to the hospital and miss the graduation of their child? Or even the graduate, did they refuse to stay for their ceremony because their grandpa was having an emergency that could be fatal?

I don't know.  I never know.  The outcomes are unknown for me. It's always the idea of move on..."next caller please".  

Friday, December 27, 2019

All Superheros Have A Kryptonite

 I take 9-1-1 calls so yes, I am calm and jump into action when there is an emergency, whether on the phone or in person.  I've drove down the street watching a woman get beat by her man and I had no regard for my own safety and jumped out my car to help her.  I was able to get her to my car and took her to the police station as she bled all over my seat.  I've seen a woman on the freeway about to jump over the ledge and I pulled over and talked to her until the police arrived and took over.  I am cool, calm and give all the necessary information needed that many times my callers fail to give me when it's their emergency.   

Typically when you talk to me through my headset it's quite possibly the worst day of your life. 
You absolutely never know how you will react when you're in the middle of an emergency yourself.  You may say you got it under control.  But you won't know until it actually happens to you. 

Ask the trauma nurse who had to watch their child have a seizure while on the phone with me.  The nurse could not stop screaming in panic to give me the address needed to send help.   Eventually I was able to calm the nurse just enough for me to hear "I am a trauma nurse, but I need your help,  tell me what to do!" 

Ask the doctor who was calling for his friend while at a medical convention.  The friend went unconscious and needed CPR and there I was giving a medical doctor life saving instructions. 

Ask me operator 43...when I saw my co-worker drive away and get t-boned by a bus, I called my job in a shear panic. 

"Help! Help! Get the paramedics and ambulance here now! Send them to our job!"

"Who's job?"


Yeah that didn't go over well.  I was no help at all and hung up on the dispatcher due to my own frustration.  

Ask me operator 43 about the time law enforcement sent me a call and before they could say anything I heard this little girls voice say "Hello"  I froze and didn't want to look at the screen displaying the info from the caller because I knew the voice.  I called her name and she replied "Yes".  Like a deer in headlights I stared at the phone screen and confirmed what I already knew.  It was my niece calling me.  Although she was six years old I taught her well enough that she knew you only call 9-1-1 for an emergency.  So if she was calling...then it absolutely had to be a real emergency.  When I realized what was happening I never even asked her what was wrong and I just sent help.  I sat on the phone with her as I cried watching and waiting for the units to make it to her.  I never did what I was supposed to do as operator 43.  In that moment, hearing her voice was my kryptonite.  All my superhero powers were gone. 

Good news, although it was a real emergency everything went well but later I was in for a doozy.  My niece's mom called me and said you really scared her when she called you.  I felt bad, because when I needed to be a superhero I failed her miserably. 

The next day I took pizza to her class. She introduced me, "this is my auntie,

she's a 9-1-1 operator!"  The kids looked up to me oohed and ahh'd because I was in my uniform and I'm sure she told her class how she had to call 9-1-1 the day before.  She then said, "9-1-1 operators are supposed to be calm but she wasn't yesterday when I called her."  I guess it's true as the saying goes "kids say the darnedest things". 

Just days before writing this entry, I got a call from law enforcement, they said they needed a medical response and wanted our units to stage.  To stage means the situation is too dangerous and the Fire Department units need to wait until law enforcement handles the danger before treating the patients inside.  These calls are typically gunshots, stabbings, or victims of an assault.  The Fire Department  do not come with weapons so law enforcement does their job first. 

The address law enforcement gave me was the same exact address as my niece's house.  I froze just like the day I got the call from my niece twelve years ago.  43, ARE YOU THERE?  oh yes yes, I repeat back the address...west twenty first street and she says no 43, east twenty fourth street.  I thought I heard 21st street.  Which at the time my brain was zeroed in on thinking what was going on there at my niece's house again years later, that my brain never rationalized her address is WEST, and my department doesn't even handle the west side of the city. 

If a person I know is calling 9-1-1, it's a horrible feeling and I react differently with them versus a stranger.  On the phone before they even tell me what is wrong, I  know the caller through my headset possibly is having the worst day of their life.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Sunrise

While most of you are sleep and dreaming I am up wearing my superhero headset.  Although my job is pretty repetitive as far as the procedures of  how the calls are taken,  

I can say at night the calls are almost all emergencies. 

Some are routine and then there are the times my life saving skills are tested. When I am at work you can typically find me in the same spot.  I sit right next to the picturesque window with the view of the San Gabriel Valley.  Sitting in the window I watch people come and go, to and from work.  I also watch the airplanes in the sky.  I've had this window view so long I even know when the planes coming and going to LAX are not in their normal landing and takeoff patterns.  I am quite fascinated by aviation so to be able to see planes flying is always nice.  In addition we have a helicopter pad and sometimes I get the treat of seeing what I call the whirly bird land and take off.   

I will be candid with you, there are some day's I'm drained and I look out the window wishing I were on the whirly bird or the airplane. But in the end I know I'm needed sitting in my chair listening to the cries for help.  It's always nice to connect things and have small epiphanies about why you have a certain habit.

The window I realized is my small piece of solace.  Often times my mornings are filled with the screeching cries from a person who has found their loved one no longer breathing. To prevent those cries from eating away at me I sit in the window.  The view I see of the sunrise is GODS's gift to me that breathes life back into me.  I can leave knowing I have to make each sunrise count.  So take a look
at my view and know this day is for you too. 
Make the most of it!