Nothing Pro Tem About This EMD’s Career

Audrey Fraizer

Audrey Fraizer

Dispatch in Action

Photo caption: EMD Tosha Burns received the Handtevy Pediatric Emergency Standards Challenge Coin for her role in the survival of a child who suffered sudden cardiac arrest.

Protem, Missouri (USA), is a rural town at the Missouri-Arkansas border that hasn’t grown tremendously during the 150 years since the post office was built. The town has survived despite a name early settlers chose because no one could agree on anything else. Pro tem means “temporary” (pro tempore) in Latin. The name stuck.

Nearly 900 residents call Protem home. It’s a lovely area. Wooded lots. Gently rolling hills. Bull Shoals Lake. The Ozark Mountains. If the urge to visit a city strikes, Branson is roughly a 40-minute drive away.

Kyle and Megan Mitchell would never change the place they call home for their family. People are friendly, Megan said. Protem is a great place to raise kids. The Mitchell’s sixth baby was to be their last. They named him Andy, and if you put stock in the meanings behind names, Andy fits the infant like a glove. He’s brave.

Andy was born nine weeks early. His lungs were underdeveloped, and he’s particularly susceptible to lung ailments such as wheezing and coughing and respiratory viruses. Andy sleeps in a bassinet by their bed. Their close watch is well invested.

On a November day last year, Kyle was pulled from his sleep near midnight to the sound of three-month-old Andy wheezing. Kyle looked over to the bassinet and immediately woke up Megan. “Call 911 right now.” Andy’s skin was turning blue. Taney County Ambulance District (TCAD) in Hollister, Missouri, is a 40-minute drive to Protem on a good night. That night it was snowing; the roads were icy.

TCAD EMD Tosha Burns answered the call. She and EMD John Fox were the two emergency dispatchers on duty. Burns went to the Breathing Problems Protocol while Fox dispatched the paramedics.

Andy stopped breathing. He was in respiratory arrest. Burns directed them to put the call on speakerphone and launched into MPDS® infant CPR. Megan supervised while Kyle followed CPR instructions. Burns coached them for 37 minutes. This was the first time Kyle had ever provided CPR.

“He kept going,” Megan said about Kyle. “He wasn’t going to stop for anything. He wouldn’t give up.”

Andy let out a cry at the same time paramedics arrived. Kyle accompanied Andy in the ambulance, while Megan drove in a short time later after notifying neighbors to watch their five other children. Andy flatlined in the hospital. He was revived and put on breathing machines. Megan stayed with him in the NICU.

Andy came home Thanksgiving Day and, although it goes without saying, the holiday was a blessed event. “The best ever,” Megan said. Andy continues to sleep in the bassinet by their bed. He’s had a few more breathing episodes, but nothing like the November emergency.

“We sleep with the light on,” Megan said. “He’s definitely watched over.”

The realization of the toughest call yet during Burns’ five years in emergency dispatch hit after the call ended. “I had super intense tunnel vision,” she said. “I followed exactly what was on the screen (ProQA®). I was completely focused on giving the parents the tools they needed to help their baby.”

She said Kyle and Megan were as “calm as calm can be.”

Megan doesn’t dispute Burns’ estimation of her well-being. Except for a minute away to check on the other children, she was completely absorbed by the experience—the “in a bubble” effect. She couldn’t say what the weather was like until driving to the hospital in Branson.

Megan does remember Burns’ intensity. “She was amazing. She is our angel. We are so grateful for what she did for us.”

Although Burns has answered many 911 calls requiring CPR, Andy was the first infant CPR call. She thanks “Superstar” John Fox, the paramedics, the Mitchells, and everyone else who aided in Andy’s survival.

And a really cool result? Burns is in emergency dispatch to stay. She is glued to the profession. “I was struggling a little bit before this call. Am I making a difference? This call proved that I am. I do make a difference in people’s lives.”