NO TIME FOR PAUSE
January 23, 2015
By Audrey Fraizer
EMD Travis Bell’s only concern was keeping the patient alive.
Bell wasn’t thinking that it was almost the end of his shift at the Polk County (Iowa) Sheriff’s Office. He wasn’t planning what to eat for breakfast or where to get the oil changed on the way home.
And after the call ended, it stayed with him. He sent texts to his co-workers on the day shift. He waited. Finally, he got a response: The person receiving CPR had lived.
But the aftermath was a shock he hadn’t anticipated.
“The publicity is good because it’s usually the bad news about 9-1-1 that makes the press,” he said. “But the attention is certainly nothing I wanted. It’s a little overwhelming.”
The call came in at 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 4, shortly before the end of Bell’s scheduled shift. The woman on the other end of the line was desperate for help. She had gone into her daughter’s room for the morning wake-up call and found the 16 year old unresponsive. The mother couldn’t tell if her daughter was breathing.
Bell instructed the mother to place her daughter on the floor.
He signaled fire and medical dispatch—“incoming, unconscious not breathing”—and they initiated response through the city of Mitchellville and city of Altoona Paramedics.
Bell accessed the ProQA AGONAL BREATHING Diagnostic Tool to determine whether the girl had gone into cardiac arrest and told the caller to say “now” every time her daughter took a breath.* The subsequent 12-second lapse between breaths indicated an agonal (dying) breathing pattern. The girl was fading.
Bell started Pre-Arrival Instructions (PAIs) for CPR, telling the mother how to position her hands to effectively pump her daughter’s chest. They counted together, reaching 600 times, and then started the second set of 600.
“We made it to 800-plus when paramedics arrived,” Bell said.
He congratulated the mother for doing such a great job during the nine minutes of compressions-only CPR.
“This was the first time CPR worked for me on a call,” said Bell, who has been a dispatcher at Polk County for 10 years. “That made it a very cool experience.”
In September, Bell was asked to stop by the office for a few minutes after his shift ended. Two people wanted to meet him in person. It would be another first for him. He got to hug the mother and her daughter.
The mother also read aloud a letter she had written in gratitude of Bell’s actions, that in part states: “That morning when I discovered our daughter, her body so still and her voice silenced, I was so afraid she had left us forever. When you asked me to begin CPR, I began to panic as I did not remember what to do.
You encouraged me and kept me on track. I know that you probably consider that you were just 'doing your job,' but to us you were the anchor that held us steady in the process of saving our daughter's life.”
Bell was then handed a commendation from the sheriff’s office.
From there it was interviews with the newspaper reporters and, in mid-October, Bell was asked to tell his story on a local television station.
He said it’s hard to take the attention in stride.
“This could have been anybody that I work with,” Bell said. “I’m honored but never expected any of this would happen.”
*Editor’s Note: According to the soon-to-be released Version 13.0 of the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS): UNCERTAIN or INEFFECTIVE BREATHING need NOT be verified by using the AGONAL BREATHING Diagnostic Tool, but rather PAIs should be initiated as soon as possible.