News: Emergency in the 911 call center
Story by Sgt. Barry St. Clair
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - On Oct. 16, 2012, Department of Emergency Services for Fort Bragg’s 911 call center dispatcher Beth Bivins collapsed to the floor unconscious, stopped breathing, and went into cardiac arrest. This may be the second-best place to experience a medical emergency, other than a hospital emergency room.
Bivins of Hope Mills, N.C., began working at the DES call center in the fall of 2011. She had worked as a dispatcher in the past for agencies in the area. Shortly after she began working in the call center, a frantic father called in, whose wife was in labor. Bivins spoke reassuringly to the young father, and assisted him in delivering the baby over the phone.
Bivins experienced no medical symptoms prior to her collapse Oct. 16, 2012. When Bivins fell unconscious at her desk, lead dispatcher and radio operator Curtis Forte immediately moved to her side, and began mouth-to-mouth. Dispatch supervisor Deborah Holfelder opened and stabilized Bivins airway, while dispatcher Christine Ansell began chest compressions.
“For us, it was an automatic reflex,” said Forte. “The next generation needs to be aware and listen, as it can happen to anyone, anytime. You don’t know when you may need someone to help you out.”
Meanwhile, Dispatch Director Vicki Post ran next door to the Provost Marshalls Office to get the automatic external defibrillator, as there wasn’t one near the call center at that time. Two AEDs have been installed in the DES building since that time. Dispatchers Jack Marshall, Mark Jones, and Clydean Mathews picked up the slack in call volume for the team, and began dispatching fire rescue and emergency medical system units to the 911 call center, while coordinating other dispatch calls across Fort Bragg. Mathews began directing personnel traffic inside the call center as fire administrators from across the hall and first responders began to arrive.
“It was a team effort; the training we extend to others took over, and together members administered both patient care, and continued center operations,” said Bivins. “By the grace of God, it happened here. If it had happened at home, I would most certainly not be here today.”
Within about six minutes the dispatchers and first responders had Bivins strapped in an ambulance and she was transported to Womack Army Medical Center, where she remained for the first 36 hours while medical staff stabilized her condition.
Next she was flown to University of North Carolina Medical Center where it was determined that she sustained no heart damage, but needed a pacemaker. The procedure was completed within a week, and then began the process of recovery.
The recovery was difficult as Bivins had to learn basic self-care again. This was complicated by vertigo caused by hitting her head during the initial fall. Bivins was restricted from driving for six months, which meant she had to be driven to DES and back home again when she resumed working in January. Through it all, the dispatch family from the call center, along with her family members, were at her side every step of the way.
“I am thankful for these people. If it had not been for them, I would not be here,” said Bivens.
The call center team utilized the training that they extend to others on a continuing basis to one of their own, in crisis.