When Natalie Rumsby answers a call as a 911 dispatcher, her job ends when first responders arrive on the scene, and the person who called 911 no longer needs her help.
It’s not often that she and her colleagues at the dispatch centre in Victoria hear the outcome of their calls.
That changed last week when a woman from Port Alberni shared her story about performing CPR on her husband thanks to the coaching of a calm 911 dispatcher.
Carol Klock related her story about calling 911 after her husband Jack suffered a heart attack while taking a shower one night in April.
Carol, who had never taken a CPR course, performed the life-saving technique on her husband for 10 minutes while waiting for paramedics to arrive. She said an anonymous dispatcher “literally taught me CPR over the phone” and she wanted to thank the woman for helping her.
A colleague of Rumsby’s who was familiar with the call read the story from the Alberni Valley News and let Rumsby know about it.
“Everything’s done over the phone and once you’re done, you’re on to the next job,” Rumsby said from Victoria. “It’s heartwarming to hear that he survived.”
She said she doesn’t often open up about her job. She compartmentalizes it, and when she leaves the dispatch centre for the day, she leaves the job behind.
It’s a survival tactic: “Right now, there’s a lot of compassion fatigue. It’s an exhausting job at the best of times,” she said, but added the opioid crisis has made it even tougher for 911 dispatchers and other first responders.
“There’s days here where we could have seven or eight call-takers and they’re all coaching CPR to people in different communities in B.C.
“As a call-taker/dispatcher, you are often tasked with talking to people on the worst day of their lives, in a moment of crisis, and you depend on them to be your ears, eyes and hands until help arrives,” Rumsby said.
“We are trained to help people not only cope with these situations, but in many situations, guide them to give life-saving first aid that they would otherwise not know how to do.”
While Carol Klock gives Rumsby all the credit with helping her stay calm, Rumsby said Carol’s ability to stay composed was the most important aspect of helping her husband.
“This woman performed those skills in the worst of circumstances, ” Rumsby wrote in a Facebook post about the story. “Thanks to her staying calm and composed and doing the most effective CPR possible, her husband is alive today.”
Rumsby hopes stories such as the Klocks will inspire people to learn how to perform CPR.
“I think it’s really important for everyone to take a CPR course, even a hands-only CPR,” she said. “If somebody knows CPR, the second they see someone collapse … it could mean life or death for that patient.”
Rumsby has nominated Carol Klock for a Vital Link Award with BC Ambulance Service, which recognizes the significant contributions made by citizens during medical emergencies. She hopes that if Carol is given an award, she will be able to meet the Klocks in person.