Marco Gallardo had no previous 911 experience. He had been a worship minister at a Christian academy.
He had no medical emergency experience to fall back on. He previously taught music and Bible studies.
He had been in emergency dispatch only a short time. He had recently completed training and was certified in EMD and EFD.
He had a grandmother on the line pleading for help to save her 2 ½-year-old grandson.
“My job is to help the patient,” said Gallardo, EMD/EFD, Lake EMS, Mount Dora, Florida (USA). “I was so glad to have the protocol because it does everything for me. I could take care of the patient.”
The caller, “Grandma MeMe,” was tending the grandson she affectionately calls “Bear” in mid-November when he had a seizure related to a medical condition (Angelman Syndrome, or AS). He was unresponsive.
Grandma MeMe (Carmen Carroll) administered his rescue medication and called his parents, Brian and Kelly David. She called 911 and remembers begging for help and listening to Gallardo’s calming voice as he advised her what to do. She was scared. He stopped breathing “for just a few seconds.”
“We started doing CPR,” Gallardo said. “He started breathing before paramedics arrived. I was very relieved. I thought about my own boys at home.”
Grandma MeMe didn’t waste any time in expressing her gratitude. She wrote a thank you note addressed to Lake EMS. She didn’t know the name of the EMD who had helped, but she did know that his composure made it so she could be there for her grandson.
“I had prayed to God, and he answered my prayers,” she said.
Gallardo said his ability to navigate difficult situations comes from his background and education.
“I see it as being a bridge for people,” he said. “It’s their reality, and it’s our job to meet them where they are.”
Lake EMS Chief Communications Officer Kimberly Stephens acknowledges her “truly amazing” staff for the work they do every day.
“They are serious about the job they do,” she said. “Coming to work and doing your job as a 911 dispatcher certified in EMD and EFD and following the protocols exactly as written while you have a Grandma on the phone pleading for help for her grandbaby and getting him to breathe again is downright remarkable.”
Bear was hospitalized for three days, with his mom and dad settling him in with new seizure meds to help control the electrical activity in his brain. Two weeks later, they boarded a plane for a FAST (Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics] conference and fundraiser in Chicago, Illinois (USA).
“Life with Angelman Syndrome is a constant wait and watch and worry,” according to Kelly David’s Facebook post. “I am forever thankful to those who dropped everything to answer our calls and offer advice and guidance. For those of you on the outskirts of the community, I share this with you because I want you to understand WHY we want this cure. This handsome, funny, clever, mischievous, brave little boy is why we fundraise for FAST.”
Grandma MeMe ended her letter confirming Bear’s resilience: He’s “back to being his amazing, loving, and mischievous self.”
Gallardo said the benefits of the job speak through the calls they receive.
“I have the ability to serve so many people each day,” he said. “What better way to understand and sympathize with our community than by helping them navigate the scariest, most overwhelming moments of their lives.”
He also gave credit to the people he works alongside.
“Everybody here does all they can do to help, every day,” he said. “We’re a lifeline.”
FAST funds research grants and has also entered into contracted research on targeted projects to restore function to the affected gene. Check out cureangelman.org for information about AS and FAST.