Serving Care In Stanly County

Becca Barrus

Becca Barrus

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Just before 1:00 a.m. on a May morning in 2023, Stanly County Communications EMD Abby Lavoie took a career-defining call. At the time, Lavoie had not yet been an Emergency Dispatcher for an entire year—her career in the emergency communication center had only just begun. She was hired at the center, which was her first job in 911, in August 2022, and she was already being called on to take the kind of call that some EMDs go decades without taking.

“I picked up the phone and immediately knew it was going to be a long call,” Lavoie remembered.

Desire Stevenson, a 48-year-old man living in Locust, North Carolina (USA), was on his way out the door to go to work when he suffered a massive cardiac emergency. According to Lavoie, Stevenson’s wife was doing CPR when she called 911.

“We don’t know exactly what happened—how she found him, how long she’d been doing CPR before she had a chance to call,” Lavoie said. “It was an intense call for sure. We went through our protocol, which immediately brought up the CPR instructions, and then I dropped the call over to Barry [Luther] for dispatch.”

Luther, Lead Telecommunicator, has been in emergency dispatch for a little over 10 years now, having spent 23 years before that in a hardware store and as a volunteer firefighter (he was also Fire Chief for three years). He’s seen his fair share of CPR calls and has even performed CPR a few times. Without missing a beat, Luther dispatched the appropriate first responders to the scene.

In less than 10 minutes from Stevenson’s wife’s call, West Stanly Fire Department and Police Department arrived at the home and took over CPR from her before applying an AED. Stanly EMS personnel arrived shortly thereafter to provide advanced care. At 1:15 a.m., a mere 25 minutes after the initial call, Stevenson’s heartbeat was restored, and he was transported via ambulance to receive cardiac care.1

He stayed in the hospital for 10 days, and on June 1, 2023, he was able to meet with the emergency responders who had been so instrumental to his survival.

At the ceremony, EMS Chief Dale Chandler recognized those involved directly in the call by presenting each with certificates. Among those celebrated were Lavoie, Luther, West Stanly first responder/firefighter Matt Losh, EMT Sidney Paschall, and paramedic Wesli Middlebrook.

“I am thankful to have back my life,” Stevenson said, adding, “They were so good, so helpful, and so quick … They did a beautiful job.”

Before new Stanly County Communications hires are allowed to go out on the floor, they must go through a 30-day in-house Training Academy to prepare them for the eventuality of major events like this. After that, they are paired with a CTO and moved to the floor for the remainder of their training, which can take up to six months. These initial and ongoing trainings provided by the CTOs aid the Emergency Dispatchers in making sure that the calls they receive have the most positive outcome possible.

Jaycie Holland, Operations Manager and Training Coordinator, could not be more complimentary of the duo involved in this CPR save, especially Lavoie.

“She is successful in our center, and that makes our center successful,” Holland said. “It saves lives. This one positive outcome is forever sealed in our brain. It’s why we do the job, and it’s why we keep coming back. We might not save the next person, but we did it this time.”

When asked what the best part of being an Emergency Dispatcher is, Lavoie and Luther had the same answer: They like helping people.

“I like the diversity of helping all the different people in the county,” Lavoie added. “We’re pretty much family down here.”



  1. Thorpe T. “Cardiac patient reunites with first responders, EMS personnel.” The Stanly News & Press. 2023; June 5. https://www.thesnaponline.com/2023/06/05/cardiac-patient-reunites-with-first-responders-ems-personnel/ (accessed June 13, 2023).