I don’t know your name.
Our lives crossed paths for a matter of minutes on November 22, 2011.
Seven years have passed since then, but I have never forgotten, and if I had to guess…I doubt you have either.
You had no idea when you walked into work that day that I would call you. Maybe you drug yourself out of bed that morning after working way too many hours that week. Maybe you were watching the clock hoping time would go by faster so you could get home to your family. I don’t know your story, I just know you showed up for work that day… and I couldn’t be more grateful.
You had no idea I would call you, sobbing, that afternoon. But that’s the nature of your job. No one calls you because they’re having a good day. You deal with people at their lowest…at their most terrified… and you certainly met me at mine.
It had seemed like a beautiful, ordinary day. I was at home alone with my babies. I had just put my older three children- ages 4, 3 and 1- down for naps while I fed my infant son who had been born premature 3 months earlier. He was growing well, with no problems besides being small. I wanted to keep holding him, but I really needed to fold laundry while the other kids were sleeping.
I kissed him, laid him down in his crib, and turned on the monitor.
It was the same monitor we had gotten when our oldest was born, this motion-detector monitor. I had a love-hate relationship with that thing. It would go off when there was no movement detected, but usually that was when I had staggered out of bed to nurse in the middle of the night and forgot to turn it off before picking up the baby. Irritating as it was at 2 AM, I loved it because I knew it worked.
I didn’t usually turn it on if I was only putting him down a few minutes, but for some reason that day I did.
I walked into the next room to fold laundry. About halfway through, the alarm sounded on his monitor. I ran to the nursery.
That image is one that I will never get out of my head.
My tiny son was face down in his crib. He had suffocated.
Somehow he had managed to turn on to his stomach, but he didn’t have the neck strength to lift his face out of the mattress. I grabbed him frantically and turned him over. He was blueish, completely limp and his tiny nose was smashed against his face.
In absolute panic, I tried to wake him, rubbed his chest, but he wasn’t breathing. I ran to the living room, laid him on the couch and started CPR. I did it just I had practiced in the NICU, but it wasn’t working. He wasn’t coming back. I tried again…pleaded with God not to take my baby.
It felt like forever, but there was the faintest breath. So slight I was afraid I imagined it. A tiny hope. Then another. I grabbed the phone, dialed 9-1-1… and you answered.
I wish I remembered what you said to me, but I don’t. I don’t remember what you asked me. I don’t remember anything we said. But you were there. And because of you, within a few minutes, the police, fire department and EMTs were at my front door trying to coax life back into my tiny, precious son. I don’t even remember ending the call.
For me, life was a crazy, hectic blur for the next 2 days in the PICU. My sweet baby was unresponsive when paramedics had arrived. He was still unresponsive nearly an hour later when we arrived at the hospital. I just knew he had been without oxygen too long. Even if he was breathing, the damage had to be too great. There has never been a moment of relief greater in my life than when he first fussed and opened his eyes.
My world would never be the same… but what about you?
You hung up the phone that day and never knew what happened to my baby. You stayed on the line through a complete stranger’s worst moment, sent help just in time to save my baby and when I hung up, you had to move on to the next call without knowing how it ends. There was no closure for you.
I’ll be totally honest, I have always sincerely appreciated you being there, but I never truly understood what you did that day… what you do every day.
Being married to a first responder now, I see what you did in a whole different light. I have heard the pain in my husband’s voice when he calls me after a particularly awful call and somehow has to pull it together to go to the next thing. But you, you often don’t even have the luxury of knowing how the story plays out after you play your part.
All these years later, now I wonder what your next call was. Did you have to pull yourself together and answer another heart-wrenching cry from a stranger or was it some ridiculous person calling for the third time this week because their neighbors had too many Christmas lights? Did you hug your own babies tighter that night? Did my voice become one that has haunted you? One in a line of many you can’t get out of your head?
Oh, how I wish I knew your name. Because I need you to know… you saved my son.
Yes, I got him breathing again, but he needed more than I could give him. The heroes who walked through my door just in time were there because of YOU.
I need you to know…
His name is Korbin.
He’s 7 now. He’s full of life, afraid of nothing and keeps us laughing all the time. He’s crazy smart and is chronically covered in dirt. He’s all boy and all things perfect and wonderful.
I just need you to know…need all dispatchers to know…as a woman who has now stood on both sides of the line… you are a hero. You’re the first point of contact for people in their darkest hours and the one I’m counting on to be there if my husband calls for help because something went terribly wrong.
You’re the piece that holds it all together.
So thank you.
And please remember… every shift you work matters to someone.
You are a hero.
**while I don’t often do this, this post does contain an affiliate link to the monitor that saved Korbin. I cannot recommend it highly enough. You can also find it HERE