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Emergency dispatchers all have something in common: They never know what’s coming their way during a shift.
That's certainly the case for the workers at Chagrin Valley Dispatch. On a recent episode of “911 Crisis Center,” airing Saturdays at 9/8c on Oxygen, dispatchers had to handle all kinds of emergencies.
A report of gunshots fired near a store that left a man wounded on the ground sent dispatchers into overdrive. Dispatchers worked to get information about the victim, including what he was wearing, as well as a description of the individual who pulled the trigger.
“We heard the gunshots and hit the floor,” the caller is heard saying.
Police arrived and said the victim had been shot multiple times and was exhibiting agonal breathing.
“That's basically you taking your last breaths,” a dispatcher said.
Surveillance camera footage from a nearby store showed two suspcts, along with the direction they went in when they fled the scene.
After multiple rounds of CPR from multiple police and paramedics, the gunshot victim died. The investigation is ongoing.
Dealing with death is part of the job at Chagrin Valley, and so is training new staff.
Dispatcher Jessica Merkosky guided trainee Patrick Mulholland through the ropes. “It’s a lot to learn,” she said, adding that talking with callers and first responders is a tricky juggling act.
During the shift, Merkosky picked up a call from a mother whose 9-year-old baby was choking. Mulholland listened intently to the questions she asked, and the order in which she asked them. Those seemingly small details matter.
The dispatcher noted they heard the baby crying. While the sound is distressing, it’s also a sign that the baby is breathing.
“We want him to continue to cough on his own,” Merkosky said in a firm, calm voice. “Don't slap his back or stomach or anything.”
By keeping her cool, she helped ease the caller’s anxiety. The infant was conscious and breathing when EMS arrived. He was able to stay at home with his mother.
Dispatchers also helped a woman whose neighbor was on her property and calling her obscene names. Although name-calling isn’t a crime, which the dispatcher explained to the caller, police checked out the scene.
Officers determined no crime was committed and suggested neighbor mediation.
In a call that unexpectedly tested Mulholland’s ability to fly on his own, Merkosky answered a call from a woman whose boyfriend was in full cardiac arrest and unresponsive in a car near a fast-food restaurant. The dispatcher asked if the man had taken any drugs, and the caller said she’d given him an Adderall.
At the same time, Mulholland had to convey this information to the rescue squad.
Merkosky instructed the caller to get her boyfriend out of the car and onto his back on the ground so that she could guide her through giving CPR compressions. She continued to do this until paramedics arrived.
“Keep pumping on his chest,” she instructed in an effort to save the man’s life.
Throughout the event, Mulholland stayed in contact with paramedics en route so they would know what they would encounter when they arrived: “Male is passed out in the vehicle and not breathing. His lips are turning purple.”
Paramedics administered Narcan to the man and he regained consciousness. He was transported to the hospital and was later confirmed to be in stable condition.
Merkosky received a commendation for her CPR instruction. Mulholland also received one for his role in the life-saving call.
Both dispatcher and trainer were thrilled to receive the recognition. “It was a busy day,” said Mulholland.
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