By Audrey Fraizer
Joking about a near-death experience takes a good sense of humor and a really strong relationship when the incident involves a spouse.
At least, that’s what Cindy and Wayne [last name withheld] would lead you to believe.
“They had us in stitches the whole time they were here, we were laughing so hard,” said Shelby Schmidt, Supervisor, Waukesha County (Wis.) Communications. “It was supposed to be a meet and greet, and they were here for 90 minutes. They were so much fun.”
The occasion to meet the couple was not predicated upon fun, of course.
On Oct. 24, 2013, Cindy called 9-1-1 to report a medical emergency involving her 73-year-old husband, Wayne. Cindy told EMD Melissa Simms that her husband was having a stroke, and Simms proceeded through Case Entry Questions.
He wasn’t conscious, and he wasn’t breathing. Simms immediately went to compressions-only CPR.
“Cindy hesitated,” Simms said. “She was afraid she might hurt him since she had never done CPR before.”
Simms persistence convinced Cindy to try; her reassurance and counting along to maintain the rhythm kept Cindy pumping up and down on her husband’s chest for the nearly six minutes between the time of the call and the ambulance’s arrival on-scene. Paramedics brought out an AED to restore a normal heart rhythm. He was transported within 30 minutes
“That was the last we knew,” Schmidt said.
Jump ahead exactly one year and guess who rings up Waukesha County Communications?
“Cindy was looking for the dispatcher who took her call that day,” Schmidt said. “She had started thinking that without Melissa’s coaxing, she wouldn’t have done the CPR.”
The couple, going on their 54th year of marital bliss, wanted to thank her personally.
Two months later, on Dec. 10, 2014, Cindy and Wayne stopped by carrying a box of doughnuts and eager to put a face to the EMD they credit for the critical first step in saving Wayne’s life.
“They were the cutest couple ever,” Simms said. “Cindy remembered things I had told her to do. They made me realize how remarkable 9-1-1 can be during that critical moment in a person’s life.”
They also made Simms and Schmidt laugh with their good-natured banter and sense of humor.
“Cindy said since the devil apparently didn’t want her husband, he was still hers to look after,” Simms said.
Wayne talked about how cataract surgery on one eye gave him the ability to clearly see the lines on his wife’s face.
“Cindy told the doctor not to do the other eye, “ Schmidt said.
They escorted Cindy and Wayne on a tour of the center, and Schmidt presented Simms with a lifesaver award pin. She also gave them frames to hold the photo taken during their visit, engraved with personal messages: Wayne’s read, “Melissa Simms, Wayne’s guardian angel,” and Melissa’s read, “Wayne’s Guardian Angel, Melissa Simms.”
Simms has been in dispatch for eight years—seven of those years at the Waukesha consolidated center—and it was a second choice after an accident prevented her from her first dream job: field police work. She didn’t want to work in a forensics lab or behind a desk compiling reports.
“I like working with people too much for that,” she said.
The communication center has presented the ideal environment. While not every call turns out as well as Cindy and Wayne’s, she “loves” what she does and the ability to help through the application of the Medical Protocols.
“You can’t bring everyone back,” she said. “You just try to do all you can do for that person in that moment.”