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Staying calm in a pressure-cooker situation is what 911 dispatchers are trained to do. It’s exactly what Charline Polk, a 911 dispatch supervisor, did when a girl called and pleaded for an ambulance.
“What’s going on?” said the dispatcher. “What’s the address?”
“He’s not breathing,” the panicky caller explained. “He’s just making noise and his tongue is coming out of his mouth.”
As an ambulance was sent to the caller’s address, Polk determined that the man in distress was 62 years old and that the caller was on her own. No one was by her side to help.
But Polk, who has 16 years of experience in dispatching, was at the end of the line to share some life-saving moves.
That’s all in a day’s work at Chagrin Valley Dispatch, a communications center covering the greater Cleveland area. Its unflappable staff is showcased in Oxygen’s new series, “911 Crisis Center,” airing Saturdays at 9/8c.
To aid in resuscitation efforts, Polk told the caller to place the man on his back on the floor. “We’re going to do CPR until the ambulance gets there,” she said. “Let me know when you have him on the floor.”
Polk knew that there wasn’t a second to waste. “The minute we are able to start CPR,” she told producers, “that’s the first minute of your life that you’re getting back.”
She instructed the caller to get on her knees on the side of the man and to place one palm on his chest and the other hand on top of the first one. The next step: Begin chest compressions.
“Do this 30 times,” said Polk, who counted along as the caller gently pressed down on the man’s chest. “He’s just making noise as I’m pressing,” said the caller when the dispatcher asked if the man was able to talk.
Once Polk confirmed that the paramedics could get into the home, another round of compressions began. “Run and open the door and come right back and start chest compressions again. OK, get your hands back in position, one hand over the other in the center of his chest.”
Compressions commenced again. “1, 2, 3, 4 … ” Polk counted. Then the caller, whose audible panic was replaced by relief, cried out that help had arrived.
“Good job!, Polk said. Thanks to the caller’s efforts, the man was stabilized and transferred to the hospital, according to “911 Crisis Center.”
“I helped her save his life,” Polk said. “She is the real hero because she put in the work. She put in the effort. She listened, she stayed calm, and she got it done.”
During the shift Chagrin Valley dispatchers also handled calls involving domestic violence, an alleged kidnapping, and a possible drug deal gone wrong in which an individual was shot.
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