By Audrey Fraizer
Sara Schallert believes in the idiom practice makes perfect or, at least, how it applies to the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS).
“I practice all the time,” she said. “The more I study the calmer I am and the more I am able to calm the caller.”
The study habits worked out precisely to Schallert’s advantage on Dec. 15, 2012, when the Waukesha County (Wis.) Communications (WCC) Center EMD was presented the ultimate 9-1-1 challenge: comforting not only the caller but several other people caught in a surprise oblivious to the individual at the center of their emergency.
“The caller said her sister was in labor,” said Schallert, who worked for a heavy-duty truck dealer before finding her “dream” job in communications. “I heard the mom screaming in the background, so I said to myself ‘ProQA here we go.’”
This was Sarah Young’s third baby, but despite her past two deliveries, the baby arriving that day defied her expectations.
“She didn’t have the time she thought she had,” Schallert said. “She called her husband at work and said he’d better come home, ‘We’re having a baby here.’”
Fewer than eight minutes into the call, baby Isabelle Young announced her presence. County paramedics arrived moments later, which was about the same time the three adults in the room—aside from mom—were checking out each other’s shoes for a lace to tie the umbilical cord.
The baby’s cry was music to Schallert’s ears and, presumably, to the ears of everyone else at the Young home and in the dispatch center shortly after 6 a.m.
“It was such a good feeling that everything went well,” Schallert said.
Sarah’s sister Megan had made the call, while the sisters’ mother helped deliver the baby by following the Pre-Arrival Instructions (PAIs) Schallert relayed from her ProQA screen. Dad was close at hand, although his hands were certainly full trying to keep their other two children occupied.
The communication center cheered.
“Everyone was super excited for me,” Schallert said. “We were in the 11th hour of a 12-hour shift and the call really pumped everybody up. There was lots of energy in the room.”
The baby story doesn’t end there.
One month later to the exact date, Sarah took Isabelle on a special trip to the communication center to meet the individuals involved in her unexpected morning delivery. But not only did center Director Sherri Stigler introduce her to Schallert and her coworkers, but, also, to the paramedics who had arrived on scene.
Schallert was thrilled to hold the baby, just as mom was thrilled to meet the people who helped bring Isabelle into the world.
“We all got to hold the baby,” Schallert said. “She was adorable. Mom and baby were both adorable. It was also great for the paramedics. Everyone saw a bit of the center and how it works.”
And, yes, Schallert truly does study the cardset to be better prepared over the phone when using ProQA. She has reviewed every protocol several times and is well aware of the protocols and PAIs still on her “not yet required for a caller” list.
“I can now check off the one for childbirth,” she said.
WCC is a 9-1-1 public safety answering point (PSAP) and dispatch center for 29 communities within Waukesha County. The center is staffed with 40 telecommunicators divided into three functions: calltakers, police dispatchers, and fire dispatchers.