Monday, October 13, 2008

Not wacky, just nice: 911 call relayed 5,000 miles

When emergency operator Kerry Burrows received a bizarre plea for help, she thought it was a crank call.

After all, the caller had asked her to send an ambulance to a pregnant woman in Nevada in the United States. Burrows, however, works in Cardiff, Wales in the UK -- about 5,000 miles away.

Thankfully, she didn't hang up. On the line was a desperate father-to-be, whose girlfriend was in the US, expecting twins, and needed urgent help after suffering sudden pains.

Operator Burrows said, "I was expecting him to tell me somewhere in Wales -- not the other side of the Atlantic. The dad-to-be is British but his girlfriend is American."

The frantic man explained he had been communicating with his girlfriend via the Internet. "He explained his girlfriend didn't have a phone so she couldn't call 911 for the US emergency services herself," said Burrows. "So he tried to sort it out for her and dialed 999 for our help. When I realized it was an emergency 8,000km away, I thought, 'Oh no, what do we do with this?'

Burrows quickly jumped into action and called an international operator to be put through to a hospital in Nevada. Unfortunately, it was treated as a hoax call. Not giving up, Burrows and her colleagues at the Welsh Ambulance Service went online to search for police stations in Nevada. They eventually got in touch with the New York police department, which put them in touch with the ambulance service in Nevada. Within the hour, paramedics were on their way to rescue the ailing woman. She is recovering in the hospital.

Burrows is pleased she didn't dismiss the emergency call. She said, "We love a challenge and this certainly was one. We are delighted the mum-to-be is well and hope the twins will be healthy and strong. It's not unusual to have calls coming in from mobile phones in remote parts of the UK. But to have a request to help a patient over in America is definitely a first for us. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to help someone who is so far away." (info from The Singapore Press)

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