I once ran a call on the ambulance after a 6-year old boy had called 911 for his mother. He said he had been awoken as she was “choking in her sleep”, and now he couldn’t wake her up again. It was a little before 8 in the morning, and he shared a bed with her in a small single-room house along the San Diego border, not far from the sprawling hills of Tijuana.
When we pulled up to the house, the Imperial Beach Fire Department and two sheriff’s patrol cars were arriving from the opposite direction. And when we entered through the front door there were seven of us: two paramedics, three firefighters, two sheriffs and one social worker, who responded every time a child called 911. We entered the house in a single file and when we got into the bedroom, the little boy was on the floor beside his mother, doing compressions, and the dispatcher was still on the phone laying beside him on the floor.
As fast we could pull her away from the wall, we put the defibrillation pads on her. Fortunately, the boy had kept her heart going, and still had a shockable rhythm, so we shocked her heart and we got a rhythm back. Before we got to the ambulance, my medic partner, Wesley, had intubated her and another firefighter had called the doctor before hanging a dopamine drip.
We were at the hospital within twenty minutes. The mother was stable, though unconscious, and the little boy sat with the social worker in a private room not far from the mother’s bed. I remember that particular call well because it was the closest thing to a “textbook” cardiac arrest call I’d ever seen. The mother’s outcome was too hard to say, but she still had a fighting chance for two simple reasons: 1) the community was able to access emergency care quickly; and 2) the community was prepared, thanks to trained first responders who knew how to work together well.
If anyone could be credited for saving that woman’s life, it was the 6-year old boy. The advanced drugs we used definitely helped, and so did having a trained community medical corps. But without early access – without a way to call for help quickly and easily – none of those factors would’ve mattered. This is true for all emergencies, especially those that benefit from basic emergency care systems as we’re working to implement in developing countries, like Haiti.
Being able to call 911 when and where it’s needed is absolutely essential in reducing preventable death and disability. And if you’re as impressed as I was that a 6-year old boy knew what to do in such a terrifying situation, just watch what this 3-year old boy did for his mother:
The woman pictured here lost 5 children in the 2010 Haitian earthquake, and that child lost both her parents, as well. The woman did not know the child’s name. While the earthquake was pure devastation, parents lose children, and children lose parents, everyday in poor countries – many of them for a simple lack of access to basic emergency care. Trek Medics International is trying to help mothers and children like these in developing countries – whether they’re giving birth or preventing premature deaths. We’ve developed a cost-effective mobile phone software to let mothers and children call for help whenever it’s needed, and as simply as dialing 9-1-1. THe software is called Beacon, and we’ve started a crowd-funding campaign on IndieGoGo.com to help mothers and children make calls like these possible, every time they happen.
Thank you for your generous support!