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.
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."
"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.
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 is...is 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.
"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.
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?