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911 dispatcher uses quick thinking, new software to help deliver baby by phone

Published On: Jul 01 2013 10:29:13 PM EDT   Updated On: Jul 02 2013 12:01:54 AM EDT

911 Dispatcher Helps Deliver Baby Over Phone


Seconds can mean the difference between life and death, but a new software system in Henry County is helping 911 dispatchers save time and lives.

Susan Parnell has been a Martinsville-Henry County dispatcher for two years. Her cool and calm thinking saved one life and brought another into the world.

In June, Parnell's skills were tested when she received two different but very serious 911 calls within a week of each other.

A woman called the 911 center on June 6 and asked, "Can y'all please send an ambulance. My sister's having a baby."

Moments later, the caller was yelling to Parnell that the baby was on its way.

Parnell tried to calm the woman and coach her through the entire process. Parnell knew the baby was going to be born before emergency responders would be able to make it to the scene.

In moments like that, Parnell said patience goes a long way.

"When they're telling me what's going on I have to rely on them as to what the scene is setup and what's going on there," she said.

The caller told Parnell that she could see the baby's head and arms.

Parnell said the call seemed to go on for 30 to 40 minutes.

"It was probably only a ten minute call, but during the call, you have to be real calm and afterwards is when you freak out like the caller does."

But thanks to a new software system called Emergency Medical Dispatch, or EMD, Parnell was able to walk the caller through some steps and help deliver the baby by phone.

It wasn't long before Parnell could hear the baby crying.

"Aw, listen to her," she said. "My goodness gracious. Sweet baby. That's a good sign that she's crying."

The EMD system now allows dispatchers to pull up medical information so they can deal with the situation before emergency responders show up to the scene. Before EMD, dispatchers weren't allowed to give out any medical advice or instructions.

"We basically had to stay on the line with them," she said. "We couldn't give them any information, we couldn't tell them what to do or anything so this helps us help them."

The Martinsville-Henry County 911 Center installed the software in October 2012.

Parnell found herself in a similar situation less than a week later.

Another woman called 911 after the infant she was babysitting started choking.

For a second time, Parnell was able to use the EMD system to pull up medical instructions and coach the babysitter through the steps before EMS arrived at the scene.

The baby survived.

WDBJ 7 talked to the babysitter by phone on Monday night. She said if it wasn't for Parnell, the situation would have ended very differently.

WDBJ 7 also talked to the mother who went into labor in her own home. She told us that her and her newborn are happy and healthy, thanks to Parnell's quick thinking.