By Josh McFadden
Dispatchers don’t always receive expressions of gratitude for the lifesaving assistance they provide. In fact, such instances can be rare and surprising. But a South Carolina dispatcher recently found out just how much a caller appreciated her timely aid.
And so did potentially many, many others.
On March 10, Charleston, S.C., resident Zan Dietz submitted a letter to the editor to the Post Courier, a Charleston newspaper. The 200-plus-word letter recounts Dietz’s experience the previous August when a dispatcher talked her through the steps of performing CPR on her unconscious husband. Dietz concludes the letter with a sincere outreach of thanks to the dispatcher who helped save her husband after he suffered a heart attack.
“I have not been able to track down 9-1-1 Operator No. 132 who answered my call,” Dietz wrote in the letter. “I sent a thank you note to the head of the 9-1-1 call center, and I hope it was received. She will always be my guardian angel. I have read that 9-1-1 operators often never know the outcome of their incoming calls. I want Operator No. 132 to know that my husband is alive and well and that she is a big reason for that.”
Operator No. 132 is Joselyn May, a two-year veteran with Charleston County Consolidated 911. She calmly and successfully instructed Dietz on how to give CPR to her husband even though Dietz had never been trained in giving CPR or in any medical procedures.
May was pleasantly surprised when she saw the letter in the newspaper.
“It feels great,” she said. “With our job, we don’t always get thanks. We don’t always know the outcomes, so it was nice to see this.”
The call came in at 4 a.m. with a frantic Dietz explaining that her husband had collapsed in the hallway of their home on his way from the bathroom. He had no pulse and was gargling and turning blue. Within moments of calling 9-1-1, May was walking Dietz through the steps of performing CPR.
“I tried to reassure her that help was on the way,” she said. “I was with her until EMS arrived.”
During the conversation, however, Dietz inadvertently dropped her phone, causing the call to end. May called right back and resumed her instruction until EMS arrived. In helping to save the husband’s life, May said she was simply fulfilling her job duties and doing what she loves.
“It felt great to save a life,” she said. “I’ve always had the personality to (want to) help.”
May said there’s never a dull moment in the life of a 9-1-1 dispatcher. The variety of calls and the fact that each day presents new and unique challenges is what she loves about her job. While Dietz did an excellent job of following instructions, some callers have proved difficult. Regardless, May takes it all in stride and focuses on the needs of the person.
“There’s nothing you can do about difficult callers,” she said. “You just try to be a calming voice. There’s a balance between being calm and taking control of the situation. I try to put myself in their shoes.”