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Friday, December 18, 2015

Holiday Calls

Photo credit: D. Klein
Public safety calls over the holidays are memorable. We asked two of our LMCIT field consultants to relate stories about their holiday calls: Tracy Stille was a police officer for more than 30 years and retired as a commander for the City of Maple Grove, and Troy Walsh is an assistant fire chief for the City of Victoria.
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A Christmas Miracle by Tracy Stille

About 20 years ago—just before Christmas—I had started my 6 a.m. day shift when a call came out about a deer that was possibly injured in the woods behind a residence on Cedar Island Lake. I arrived and met an older woman who said she had been watching what she thought was an injured deer near a tree down by the lake. She pointed to a group of trees that were about 60-70 yards away, and said she had watched the deer for the past hour or so. I looked out the window but did not see a deer, and I told her that I would walk down by the lake to see if I could find anything.

It was very cold outside as the temperature had dipped into the low teens. I went back to my squad and retrieved my gloves and stocking hat along with my winter jacket to make the walk thru the snow to the group of trees down by the lake.

I walked around the trees and saw what the caller thought was a deer. I remember that I ran the rest of the distance to the tree. I found a small girl about 7-8 years old sitting on the frozen snow-covered ground with her back against a tree. She was dressed in her pajamas and had snow boots on. I attempted to speak to her, but she was so cold she couldn’t speak. She was obviously suffering from hypothermia and was extremely cold.

I radioed dispatch and requested an ambulance and an additional squad car. The girl could not tell me her name or where she lived. I picked her up and carried her the 60 yards or so to the nearby house. I remember how difficult it was to carry her out of the woods due to the snow and the distance.

Tracy Stille
The woman who called was surprised to learn that what she saw was actually a small girl in her pajamas. We attempted to warm her with a blanket while we waited for the ambulance. I could not get her boots off, as they were frozen onto her feet. She was shivering, her pulse was weak, and she continued to have trouble speaking. I radioed the dispatcher to have the ambulance “step it up.” The women recognized the girl from a home down the block.

The paramedics arrived, determined the little girl’s body temperature was extremely low, and said they would be transporting her immediately. One paramedic stated that it was the most extreme case of hypothermia he had ever seen and said that the boots would have to be cut off in the emergency room. I remember the paramedic saying that if she had been outside any longer, she would not be alive.

As the ambulance left, I went to the home where I thought the girl lived and spoke to the girl’s mother. She was shocked and concerned and told me her daughter frequently walks in her sleep but had never gone outside before. The mother thought her daughter was still asleep in her bed. I gave her directions to the hospital and asked that she go there immediately.

I have thought of this call often over the years and how lucky that young girl was to have survived being outside for what was estimated to be many hours. I have never forgotten this call or this little girl and remember the call each time I drive down the road in front of the caller's home. What I didn't know at the time was that this would become one of the most memorable calls of my 30-plus-year career.

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The Power of Touch by Troy Walsh

One Christmas Eve, I was dispatched to an EMS call at a residence. When the crew arrived on scene, we were greeted by a large family filled with little children and adults, and they were all concerned about their great-grandma.

I was assigned to the patient and began to talk to her. While talking to her and getting some baseline vitals, we discussed the holidays and all of the family that was there. This wonderful woman described to me that her husband of many years passed last year, and that her grandson wanted the entire family together for the holidays again.

Troy Walsh

We discussed how she was feeling and what discomfort that she was having. She stopped and asked me to place my hand on hers and whisper to her "everything will be all right". I figured this was a little odd, but followed her wishes and did just that. Once the paramedics arrived, I briefed them and began to transition her care to them.

This woman grabbed my hand and said, "Thank you. My husband always said that when I was down, and I miss that," as she kissed my cheek. I will never forget this call and will always remember this wonderful woman.

We know emergency calls on the holidays are the same as ones on any other normal day, but somehow they are also different. Our responders know that their victims, patients, and families will forever link what happened to the holiday—and that holiday will never be the same.

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What stories can you share with us about your own memorable holiday calls? Please let us know in the comments section of this blog.

Up Next: Save-the-Date Information on the Spring Safety and Loss Control Workshops

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.

Rob

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