When calling 9-1-1, many people are having their worst day ever.  Whatever is happening, from a medical problem to finding their home burglarized, it’s now pretty well ingrained in folks to call 9-1-1.  We still get calls where someone has called a friend or relative first, and they call 9-1-1, but generally speaking, we’re first on most lists.  Sometimes it’s difficult to categorize the call as a real emergency, but we’ll do the best we can.  Sometimes a call to 9-1-1 can prevent an emergency.

Tonight we got such a call, and we had a happy ending.  A caller dials up 9-1-1 and tells the operator that earlier that day they had lunch at a small cafe in one of our mountain communities.  The lady left her purse in the restaurant when they left, and did not miss it until late in the evening.  This was a case where a lost purse could have had terrible consequences.  Inside the purse was medication for the family’s young son, a 7 year old cancer victim.  If the purse and it’s medication could not be found, the family would have to immediately leave and return to southern California to acquire the proper treatment for the boy.  They were back at the cafe, but it was now late at night, and the business was closed.  At a loss for what to do, the call to 9-1-1 was placed.  While we will do our best no matter who is involved, when you tell a bunch of dispatchers (or deputies, officers, firemen, or EMTs) that a child is involved we’ll move Heaven and Earth to get the job done.

The family had come up to our foothills, to attend a group camp for children with cancer.  It would be a chance for the child to enjoy the sunshine and mountains, and perhaps forget, for a short time, his battle with the disease.  Not finding the purse and the medication would mean that the trip was over, and a long ride home in the dark would be required.  It would take three to four hours to return home, and that would be a delay in treatment that all concerned would rather not inflict upon the child.

We had a challenge, and it was time to marshal our resources and ingenuity.

The first order of business was to see if we had contact information on the business in our computer system.  We quickly located the name and phone number of an owner, but it was from 2008, and we weren’t sure they still owned the place.  While one dispatcher was calling the number and getting no response, another was on the phone to the off-duty resident deputy for the region, to see if he could help.  He informed us that the people we had listed in the computer were still the owners, and the phone number that we had was correct.  It was his feeling that if they didn’t answer their phone, they probably weren’t home.

Once we determined the information we had was correct, the next phase of the operation went into effect.  Told by the resident deputy that the owners lived close by, a mere stone’s throw (literally), we forwarded that information on the the frantic caller.  We suggested they knock on the door of the residence, and see if anyone answered.

Well, it worked.  The business owners WERE home, and still had the purse locked up in the cafe.  They immediately responded and got the purse and returned it to the mother of the child.   The treatment would happen only slightly late, the trip to the camp was saved, and everyone involved got to feel just a little bit better about their day at work.

This event was resolved pretty easily, as far as 9-1-1 challenges go.  We’ve had to track down people in remote locations, find family of indigent transients who have died, and figure out how to keep dispatching in the middle of blackouts.  I’ve even dispatched an ambulance to a remote Texas ranch for a stroke victim, after he called his wife, who then called 9-1-1.  She was in Porterville, so she got me!  I think that’s the furthest I’ve ever dispatched anything!

We often have bad endings to 9-1-1 calls, so we’re always a little bit slap-happy when something works out well.  This is one of those times, and we’re going to milk it for all the good feelings we can.  Good work, team!

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