Massachusetts 911 Dispatcher Provides Over-the-Phone CPR Instructions to Save a Life

On a quiet Sunday morning at the Regional 911 Dispatch Center in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, dispatcher Tara Jones-Nutting answered a call: “911, where’s your emergency?”

The caller, a man named Adam, didn’t know. How could he? Miles deep into a bike ride in the Berkshire woods, he and a friend, Robert, had just glanced back to check on a third buddy only to find him on the ground in full seizure. “We have a very serious emergency,” Adam told Tara, who used geocoding to send professional help. “I don’t know how to do CPR,” Adam said, “please send this ambulance quickly.”

Tara knew they were in a very rural area. “There’s not a lot of house numbers. It’s a back country road, there’s no mile markers, there’s nothing,” she says. “I can clearly remember listening to the man on the ground breathe. I’ve been an EMT since I was 18 years old, twentysomething years, and I instantly recognized the agonal respirations. I told Adam, I’m going to give you instructions on how to do CPR.”

Massachusetts requires all 911 dispatchers to be trained in CPR. Tara’s dispatch center uses the American Heart Association’s Basic Life Support and Heartsaver First Aid programs to deliver its training. And while dispatchers also have access to CPR instructions, Tara had the added benefit of having taught CPR classes.

And so it began. “Kneel by his side and put the heel of one hand in the center of his breastbone … .” After more than 70 compressions, Adam said, “We got something!” The victim began to take big gasping breaths on his own — then stopped breathing. Tara directed them to start five rounds of 30 compressions, followed by two breaths, and explained how to check for breathing — all while encouraging them.

About 14 minutes in, the local fire chief and his daughter, who’s an EMT, arrived on scene, followed by another officer, an ambulance and eventually a helicopter that flew the victim to Massachusetts General Hospital. “You guys did a good job, I’m going to disconnect,” Tara told them, not knowing if she’d ever hear the end of the story.

But later in the day, a paramedic who was in the ambulance called the dispatch center for some statistics. He happened to be an old friend of Tara’s from back in her days as an EMT. So she asked about the call, assuming the victim didn’t make it. “No, he did,” her friend told her. He wasn’t a victim, he was a survivor.

Later, Adam contacted the dispatch center to provide an update. When Tara worked up the courage to talk to him, she said, “Hi, this is Tara from Berkshire County.” He replied, “I’ll never forget your voice.”

Looking back, Tara says she’s talked to people she’s helped revive and save before, but this was different. “I wasn’t there to physically do it, so I had to use my voice and their hands as my hands to get them to do what I needed them to do. This was a whole new, different situation for me.”

She uses an analogy to explain how she approaches teaching someone CPR over the phone. “Imagine walking someone through how to tie a shoe when that person doesn’t even know what a shoe is — and you’ve got your back turned to them. So providing very, very basic, step-by-step instruction — finding the midpoint on the chest, doing the compression and making sure they’re doing it accurately.”

Rescuers Adam & Robert instructed on how to perform CPR to save a friend’s life by 911 dispatcher Tara.

Weeks after this incident the survivor hosted a luncheon for all of the first responders, including Adam, Robert and Tara. “It was just such an amazing thing to see him standing there,” Tara says. “There were a lot of tears that day.”

As it turned out, Adam had taken a single CPR class many years ago. “It’s just so important to have that base level of knowledge, just so that CPR isn’t completely foreign to you when you need it,” Tara says. “I stand firm in the fact that I did nothing that day, those two gentlemen that were with him are the heroes at this call, because if they weren’t willing to do what they did, he would not be here.”


American Heart Association Workforce Training Helps Man Save A Life

By Gina Mayfield

After a cornhole tournament late one Thursday night, Rob Schulte drove home along a deserted stretch of Route 16 in Macoupin County, Illinois. “I’m going down the road, and it started getting really dark. Next thing you know, I’m hitting chunks of mud and I’m wondering, What’s going on? I look in my rearview mirror and I see mud flying up,” Rob says. “Then I look forward, and all of a sudden I have to slam on my brakes. There’s a black car in the middle of the road — upside down. I didn’t even see it until I about hit it. I was headed right into it.”

Rob Schulte

Rescuer: Rob Schulte

He immediately pulled over, got out of his car and went to see if he could help. With the car on its roof, Rob got down and repeatedly started yelling, “Anybody in here?!” No answer. With the cab of the car smashed in and the airbags deployed, he couldn’t see much. Then the strong odor of gasoline served as a warning to move away.

Rob ran toward a big ditch on the side of the road, weaving his way through car parts. “I started yelling for people and running around using the flashlight on my phone as a guide. I look down and see a blue object in the weeds. Sure enough, it’s a body. I was telling myself, Please be alive, please be alive,” he says.

Rob runs over to find a survivor unconscious, but breathing. There was no telling how long he had been there. Rob tapped him on the shoulder, which elicited a moan. Then Rob looked down and noticed the man’s leg snapped in two. Blood squirted out with every pulse.

“He was laying sideways, the way you would lay on a pillow. Half his face was covered in weeds, but looked fine,” Rob says. “Then he rolled over. His jaw was broken, lots of teeth were busted out of his mouth, half his head was just drenched in blood.”

That’s when the man tried to get up. In an effort to keep him calm and still, Rob turned to him and said, “Sir, just sit here. I’m going to do what I can to help you.” With that, Rob took off his own shirt and used it as a tourniquet on the man’s leg, then applied pressure to stop the bleeding. He got out his phone and called 911 on speaker.

Ten to 15 minutes later, the state police arrived, closely followed by volunteer firemen. They doublechecked the car, then EMS showed up and took over. They radioed for a medical helicopter to transport the man to a hospital, and that was the last communication Rob heard about the man.

“It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever been through in my life, but because of my training, I was prepared for it,” he says. That training included CPR AED, First Aid, Blood Borne Pathogens and others. Rob’s worked at the same production plant for 13 years, during 12 of which he’s served as what they call a MRT or Medical Response Team member. As part of that group, he’s had yearly training.

“I tell everybody the same thing,” Rob says. “Please get American Heart Association training. You may not ever use it, but if there comes a time you need it, you’ll be prepared. That’s what I preach.”


Colorado School Nurse Spearheads Cardiac Emergency Response Plan in Her District

Out in a far-flung corner of southwest Colorado sits Moffat Consolidated School District #2, home to the Moffat PreK-12 School Cowboys and Crestone Charter School (K-12). Both schools have a grand total of just over 200 students … combined. “It’s a small community, the town of Moffat has a little over 100 people in it,” says district school nurse Sarah Elchos, MSN, RN. “It’s not really a small town, it’s more frontier.”

With that designation comes challenges, especially in regard to the availability of emergency services. “One is Moffatt and Crestone do not have a nearby hospital. The closest one is 35 minutes away, and Moffat doesn’t have an ambulance service,” Sarah says. In the event of an emergency, the schools have to rely on neighboring towns for help, which can mean a 35-minute wait before lights and sirens reach their front door. “So there really is a need for our people to actually be able to save someone while we wait on the ambulance,” Sarah says. “And we didn’t have a CERP in place.” 

A CERP, or Cardiac Emergency Response Plan, can increase sudden cardiac arrest survival rates by 50 percent or more by enabling a trained lay-responder team — such as teachers — to take action until Emergency Medical Services arrive.

“Through my school email, I got an invitation to a free, online Project Adam webinar from the American Heart Association (AHA) and Children’s Hospital Colorado,” Sarah says. Project Adam is a nonprofit that helps schools establish a CERP through its Heart Safe Schools program.

“They actually have a tool that helped me fast track my plan,” Sarah says. “It had a checklist and explained everything needed for the school CPR/AED progam. It’s a step-by-step guideline. It was exactly what I needed.”

Indeed, Project Adam provides the foundation for schools to plan and develop their own program, including CERP templates, a reference manual and even one-on-one consultation. Everything is customizable, even for schools on the frontier. Also, because of Sarah’s seminar attendance, the district received free mannequins and other educational supplies to teach hands-only CPR and AED training to students.

“I got the CERP written and approved through the superintendent, and she let the school board know,” Sarah says. Through a nurse grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Sarah got the additional hours she needed to work the plan, going from just 20 hours per week to 40.

First, she ordered the American Heart Association’s Heartsaver® CPR/First Aid/AED Training, designed for anyone with limited or no medical training who wants to learn how to give CPR and use an AED in a safe, timely and effective manner. “I wanted us to really be prepared if something happens,” she says. “We had AEDs, and I’m an old ICU nurse, so I wanted to make sure people knew how to use them,” Sarah says. “Initially, I was shocked by the number of ‘Oh, we have an AED?’ questions.”

During the 2020-2021 school year, she used the AHA Heartsaver course to train 19 teachers, as well as a group near and dear to her heart — interested graduating seniors, just in time for them to go off into the world. She also taught hands-only compressions to fourth and fifth graders at the Moffat school.

Toward the end of the school year, it was time for a drill, which proved helpful. Sarah placed a dummy in the front office, and so it began. “The call for help was put out over the walkie-talkies. That’s one thing we immediately identified that we need to do better, make sure the whole school is aware, not just the walkie-talkie users.”

She now awaits the results of her submission to Project Adam for Moffat to be designated as a Heart Safe School. She’s hopeful that the Title 1 school has enough AEDs to qualify, meaning one available in three minutes from anywhere on the facility. Come June, Sarah will be able to apply for a grant to get even more AEDs. “I have everything ready to apply,” she says, in true Sarah style.

“It’s all been well received,” she says. “This was my first time teaching children, and I felt more comfortable starting with the younger classes, then I’ll move on to the older groups. I really want to teach hands-only to middle school up to tenth grade, and I’m hoping I can expand the AHA Heartsaver to eleventh and twelfth grades every other year.”

So what’s been her biggest secret to success? “It’s just perseverance and staying on top of it,” Sarah says. “There’s no need to put a lot of pressure on yourself. Just let it flow.”



Off-duty nurse helps perform CPR to save the life of her friend during ziplining excursion

By Gina Mayfield

For Pamela Seamans, the last weekend in September always brings with it an adventure of sorts for her and her girlfriends, most in their 50s. “We’ve always taken an annual girls’ trip, and we always try to find something that’s a little, you know … edgy,” she says with smile.

September 2022 proved no different with a three-hour drive to the Catskills for an excursion that would involve a little more than just leaf peeping. By day three of the trip, they had already conquered so much, including pedaling their way on rail bikes through the woods of the Catskill Mountains. After breakfast, they made their way to the local ski lodge to hit the zip lines. Music played as they suited up in zipline gear and headed to the top of the mountain on a ski lift for a quick rundown of what to expect. “It was a little unnerving at first because we thought we were going to do some casual ziplining,” Pamela says. “This was a 610-foot cliff.”

Pamela volunteered to go first, soon followed by her friend Mary. “She did something kind of funny. She kind of did this little look, like she passed out. But she came right back around and was talking to us. We wondered what was going on at first, and watched her, but she said nothing about chest pain,” Pamela says. Knowing Mary’s fear of heights – “she’s petrified,” says Pamela – and understanding what a challenge the course was, they chalked it up to a little blip.

“I’m a nurse of over 30 years. I’ve been in critical care. I teach American Heart Association ACLS and BLS. I was watching Mary, and she was really good. So we did lots of challenging things, and we were finally approaching the launch spot of our last zipline,” Pamela says. That’s when they all heard Mary say, “I think I’m going to pass out,” before she fell to the ground.

Pamela ran to her and immediately could see Mary’s ear turning “as blue as blue could be” through her helmet. Pamela turned her over on her back, and initially thought Mary had an aortic aneurysm that had ruptured because her color turned so quickly. If that were the case, there would be little she could do. “I didn’t know,” Pamela says and decided to do what she could. “So I yelled out, ‘I’m starting CPR!’ thinking that I was going to get a bunch of people to go, ‘Oooh, I know that!’” Nobody budged.

She asked if there was an AED and instructed the crowd to call 911. Pamela started CPR and after several minutes made a plea to the crowd, “I am not going to be able to sustain this. I’m going to need somebody to help.” Two people stepped forward, one who had never taken a CPR class and one who did many years earlier. Pamela said to that second person, “That’s fine. I’m going to talk you through everything.” So she did.

“I told him, ‘As soon as I go to do my breaths, I need you to place your hands exactly where mine are,’” Pamela says. “I gave her two breaths and said, ‘Okay start. I’ll adjust you if I need to.’ I count my blessings. He was phenomenal. I couldn’t have asked for a better person.”

He continued compressions while Pamela used a pair of bandage scissors to remove Mary’s clothing, just in time for the arrival of the AED. “When we stood clear, she was in a shockable rhythm, so we were able to administer that first shock,” Pamela says. Then came more compressions and breaths, and Mary had a very faint heartbeat. “So we all started rallying and yelling for her – Mary, you can fight! – and you could see things changing,” Pamela says.

One of the local guides was holding Mary’s hand, and he said he could feel her hand getting warm, then she squeezed his hand and he could feel her heartbeat becoming stronger and faster. “The next thing you know, she was trying to sit up,” Pamela says. Just then, the EMTs arrived – 30 minutes after the call went out to 911. “Being a healthcare worker, I have never had anybody I’ve worked on for 30 minutes not only survive, but survive with no deficits,” Pamela says. But that’s what happened to Mary because two people who knew CPR intervened on her behalf.

Because this incident happened “on a mountain in the middle of nowhere,” as Pamela says, Mary had to be transported in the rescue basket of an ATV to a cleared parking lot where a medical helicopter landed to rush her to Albany Medical Center.

Pamela eventually reconnected with the man who helped her, and he shared a moment from their rescue that really stuck with him. Pamela had said to him, “Listen, you are her heart right now, and I’m her lungs. We are the only things that are physically keeping her alive.” The man said to Pamela, “I didn’t realize how important, and what a huge impact CPR truly, truly makes if you do it right.”

Late that night, the girls got a call – from Mary herself. “We all just started screaming,” Pamela recalls. Mary had a widow-maker heart attack, was in the Critical Care Unit, but could see visitors the next morning. With the image of Mary’s blank stare still fresh in her mind, Pamela walked into that hospital room. “As soon as I saw her, that’s when it really, finally sunk in. It was her eyes. She’s got these beautiful, beautiful blue eyes. That was one of the very first telltale signs that told me she was coming back while we were working on her. So when I walked in and I saw her eyes and that blue … . She just started crying when she saw me and vice versa.”

Plans are already in the works for next year’s girls trip – one not quite so “edgy.” In the meantime, they’ve all gotten together with their families to learn CPR, and Pamela is back teaching CPR at her hospital. “I now have a story, a truly awesome story. I tell my classes, ‘Listen, this is a gift this hospital is giving you. I worked on a very good friend of mine for 30 minutes, and it made a difference. I turned her around, and we still have her today. CPR is something you want to know.’”


CPR-Trained Police Officers Save Preemie

By Gina Mayfield

On a busy weekday, as Kansas City Metro Patrol Officers Richard DuChaine and Charles Owen sat in their patrol car finalizing notes on a previous call, another one came in: Medical nature unknown. A 1-month-old was not breathing.

“Before the call was even completely dispatched to us, I already had the car in drive and we were on our way with our lights and sirens. We wanted to make sure the parents could hear us coming,” Officer Owen says. Luckily, they just so happened to be extraordinarily close to the address provided by dispatch. They arrived to find a very cute toddler holding the door open for them.

“It felt like they got here in 30 seconds, but it may have been a minute or two,” says Tajanea Allen, the mother of the baby in distress, Ka’Miyah. “The dispatcher had just said to me, ‘I’m going to direct y’all through CPR,’ but before he even had a chance to do that, Officers DuChaine and Owen were running up to our house.”

Turns out that morning baby Ka’Miyah had woken up in a very lethargic state. “She wouldn’t stay awake or keep her eyes open. Her dad knew something was wrong. His instincts just kicked in. Then she just took a deep breath. That was her last breath,” Tajanea says. They frantically tried calling the local hospital, but it quickly became clear that it would take too long to get through. That’s when they called 911 and the officers took off for their home.

“We ran in and when I saw the baby, I thought it might have been a prank call because she was so small, she looked like a doll,” Officer Owen says. Sure enough, the 1-month-old was a preemie whose original due date was still more than a week away. She weighed just over 4 pounds. Dad handed the baby off to Officer DuChaine. “She was lifeless, she was really gone,” Tajanea says.

Fortunately, the Kansas City Metro Police prepares its officers well with CPR training every year. “We have adult-size manikins and we have manikins for babies, so we’ve actually practiced this scenario numerous times,” Officer DuChaine says. “Once I had the baby in the palm of my hand, I didn’t feel a heartbeat at all. So that’s when I immediately started doing infant chest compressions.”

They wanted to make sure Ka’Miyah absolutely didn’t have anything in her airways. “That was when we could see life start coming back to her,” Officer DuChaine says, noting they got her on her side and checked her airway. “She finally started breathing again, which was a sigh of relief for us.”

Shortly thereafter, EMS arrived on the scene and asked the parents for a car seat to transfer Ka’Miyah to a major children’s hospital. About 2 hours after she arrived, she went into cardiac arrest and ended up in the ICU.

Throughout the day, the officers couldn’t stop thinking about baby Ka’Miyah. “This whole thing got to me because I had a preemie daughter myself, so I knew exactly what those parents were feeling at that point in time. I’ve been in their shoes,” Officer DuChaine says. Eventually they asked their supervisor if they could make a follow-up trip to the hospital and off they went.

That’s where they learned doctors had just diagnosed Ka’Miyah with RSV, a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. She stayed in the hospital for almost a week before making a full recovery and returning home to understandably protective parents.

“I’m very grateful for those officers. Officer DuChaine is a hero,” Tajanea says. “He was one of the first people we allowed to see our daughter after she came home from the hospital. He deserved that.”