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911 dispatcher averts tragedy

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She coaches mom who finds toddler lying in tub

By Lisa King

“When you first get the call, and they’re screaming, you’re up on the same level as they are, but you have to bring yourself down to a calming voice because that calms them down.”
Sherry Abshire, a 911 dispatcher of 10 years in Shelby County, described how she talked a young mother through the steps of bringing her toddler back from the brink of drowning Friday morning.

The call came into Shelby County 911 at 9:06 a.m., and within four minutes, paramedics were on the scene at 2121 View St., where a 17-month old girl nearly drowned in a bathtub.

Assistant Emergency Medical Services Director Jeff Ivers said the woman had been giving her child a bath and had stepped out of the bathroom for just a moment to check on her other children, and when she returned, she discovered the child lying in the tub, with water from the shower hitting her in the face.

Ivers said the mother had the shower on but that the tub was not plugged.

“She [the child] was conscious when we got there; she was just dazed,” he said.

That was after Abshire gave instructions to the mother on reviving the child.

The child was taken to Kosair Children’s Hospital for observation but is doing fine, Ivers said.

“The 911 dispatcher did just a fabulous job,” said Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger, who is also a firefighter.

He said that while Abshire was on the phone with the distraught mother, the other dispatcher on duty, Jamie Pryor, was busy handling all other calls.

“He was doing everything else,” Rothenburger said. “Everything turned out very well; this is what 911 is all about.”

Abshire said when the call came through, she was nervous at first – a natural reaction – but she immediately pulled herself together to handle her first near-drowning call in her decade-long career as a 911 dispatcher.

“Once I got her calmed down, and we went through the first three commands, the baby started getting its breath back,” Abshire said.

Calming the person is important and is the first step, she said.

“At the academy, we’re taught calming techniques,” she said. “That’s very important, especially if a child is involved. So we always want to get their first name and the name of the victim. Then, we can begin going through the instructions to give them.”

After the paramedics arrived on the scene and the job was done, Abshire said she took a moment to compose herself.

“When you hang up, you just have to take a deep breath and walk out of the room and pull yourself together,” she said.