Insights from 9-1-1

(This is a post by my coblogger, Jacob. He’d post it under his own handle, only WordPress is giving us guff over adding him as an author. That situation should be remedied soon, and you’ll be hearing more from him. He’s an amazing guy. I’m proud to have him posting here once again.)


Do the right thing. Do it over and over.

This is my rule.

Anyone who knows me knows that I consider myself to be a bit of a white knight. The kind that makes other white knights look grey (one of the few areas I allow myself to be arrogant confident about myself.) Its a title I’ve done my best to earn, to deserve, and live up to. Like anything in life it can be taken to an unhealthy extreme, but for the most part, its one of the few aspects of my persona that I’m actually happy with. I have a massive inferiority complex and a serious problem with an esteem that has more cliffs and valleys than a sine graph. However, when I stop and look at what I’ve been able to do for people, or when I’m presented with the opportunity to help someone in need, that’s when I know everything will work out in the end. Whether it be helping a woman buy a propane tank to help heat her house for her daughter, listen to a friend when they don’t know who to turn to, or even just holding open a door for someone whose hands are full, its these moments when I know with absolute clarity who I am. Some people don’t get it.

Some people do.

I took a call once from a citizen who was calling in about an elderly gentleman on the street who looked to be having some trouble. (For context, I am a dispatcher and 9-1-1 calltaker. Emergencies are my day-to-day.) Now, most people see a problem, call for medics and they go on their way. Infrequently you’ll get people who will stop and make sure they are at least still kicking a bit before they call, then they move on. Now and then, you get someone who actually stops and stays with them until medics arrive. Not that people are insensitive to a crisis, just that most people have lives of their own and they are busy, or they are in a car on the street and can’t immediately stop and assist. This woman, though, she stayed with him until medics arrived. What was remarkable, though, was the compassion she showed. My job is to keep people calm, give instructions, and mostly just try to make sure things don’t get too much worse before help arrives. Usually this is giving a lot of reassurance, giving people things to do to keep them busy, and just being a calm voice. This man clearly had a medical history, but was in such a dire state he didn’t think he was going to make it. He was conscious, breathing, and alert, so he was hardly on death’s door compared to some of our calls, but he was a far cry from comfortable either.

I could tell this woman was a caretaker at heart. I start giving reassurances, but I hear her taking the reins: “Stay with me, stay awake with me. Stay awake, Matthew.” She had asked him his name. Sometimes, if the call is long enough, I’ll get the patient’s name but depending on the circumstances I am often telling people how to deliver babies or give CPR and I never find out so much as their first name. Often enough I simply don’t bother to get their name, I have other things I need to find out first, and other 9-1-1 calls are always coming in. She had asked him and was using his name as an achor for him to hold onto. “Look at me, Matthew. Let me see those eyes. You have beautiful blue eyes, just like me. Let me see those pretty eyes, Matthew.” Every word was calm, soft, the kind of voice you expect a mother to whisper to a child. I could tell it was helping Matthew, who had calmed considerably from when the call started.

I stayed silent for almost the entire call.

It amazed me just listening to her. It may not sound like much, a few words of reassurance, but this is a job in which lives may be on the line. When you hear “Please don’t leave me” from someone trying to save their spouse’s life, or you hear little kids shouting for their parent to start breathing again, you realize the power of a few quiet words.

I say I am a white knight, a guardian angel. I dance behind the scenes and try to make the world a better place in what quiet ways I can. Even then, though, what I do every day is a job, its something I am paid well to do. This woman was truly a miracle to this man, this man to whom she owed nothing, she had no ties to, no promises. She was not there to earn recognition, she was just trying to do the right thing.

So to those angels that walk among us, remember you are not alone. The world would be a better place if we all just stopped to help each other now and then. You make this world a better place.

Whoever that woman is, where ever she is, I will always remember her.

And I never even got her name.

Insights from 9-1-1

6 thoughts on “Insights from 9-1-1

  1. 1

    How unfortunate, the text formatting didn’t translate over. The line “allow myself to be arrogant confident” was supposed to have a strike-through crossing out arrogant. It was supposed to be an attempt at wit and ended up crashing the sentence.

    Oh well.

    Thanks for posting for me Dana.

  2. 3

    Thank you for this post. In the middle of all the “gotta get a bargain” holiday shopping madness, it’s important to be reminded of the power of being present for each other in the moment. It calls me to action.

  3. F

    That is beautiful.

    I have no idea who you are, Jacob, but at least in regards to caring helpfulness, I know you. In this, I know who you are, and I see you.

  4. 6

    Jacob, you are a wonderful man, the kind of man my parents tried to teach me to be, the kind I want to be.

    I look forward to reading more from you in the future, and I hope to learn from your fine example.

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