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At Chagrin Valley Dispatch, a Cleveland-area dispatch center covered in the Oxygen series “911 Crisis Center,” workers are reminded of the preciousness and the precariousness of life with every call. That truth resounded in back-to-back calls in a recent episode of the docu-series.
“I have taken a few suicide calls and those are one of the hardest things for me to take,” said dispatcher Jessica Merkosky. It's exacerbated, she said, by the fact that a young woman died by suicide while she was on a call with her.
“It’s really hard because I was the last person that she spoke with,” she said. “I tried my best.”
Merkosky stepped up again when a panicked mother of a 16-year-old called, saying, “I found my daughter in the bathtub.”
Merkosky tried to gauge the situation and see if the girl was alert and breathing. The mom frantically pleaded with her to send help, and Merkosky assured that aid was en route.
“I need you to take a deep breath,” said the dispatcher, knowing that cool heads prevail in an emergency.
Merkosky determined that the teen was having breathing distress and was poised to instruct the mom in how to administer CPR when medical help arrived. EMS transported the 16-year-old female to the hospital in stable condition.
Dispatcher Tiffany Ward handled another possible suicide threat when a distraught woman called. “My husband has a pistol to his forehead and he won’t give me the gun,” she said.
Ward asked if the man had a history of depression, and his wife confirmed that. “We did have an argument about the fact that we probably need to get a divorce,” the caller said.
The situation escalated when the caller said her husband warned her that “bad things would happen” if she contacted the police.
“We were trying to avoid it turning into a murder-suicide,” said a dispatcher. “If you have a gun, it only takes two shots to kill somebody and then kill yourself and that can happen in the blink of an eye.”
Ward focused on protecting the caller. “Don't say anything to him and don't go back in that room,” she told the caller. “Stay on the line with me until I tell you otherwise … Do not put yourself in harm’s way.”
The caller made it safely out of the house unhurt after police arrived. The husband went to the hospital for a psych evaluation, and the wife got a restraining order.
Dispatchers also guided callers through emergencies involving a possible overdose, a Taco Bell dust-up over chicken, and a domestic altercation involving a machete.
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