Friday, August 21, 2009

thanks for all the memories

Your professional manner and skillful ways have earned our heartfelt esteem. We appreciate you for the role you play as part of our emergency team.
This is what HF got when he "retired" from dispatching. While he isn't one for fame or recognition, I, as his doting wife, expected so much more. I thought it would've been nice if they had a parade in his honor. Perhaps the mayor could give him a key to the city. I would've even settled for some confetti, a party, a plaque, or a certificate of some kind. Even a brand new car or $10,000 cash. But that's just me.

In all seriousness, he loved being a dispatcher. He handled some tough calls, some funny calls, and one or two difficult officers. I will miss hearing about the calls he took that never made it to the officers. Like the one about the girl that would show up at large gatherings and "faint". When she "came to", she would act all damsel in distress and go on about having a medical condition that causes her to faint. It was very apparent that she had no condition other than a need for attention. After a few times of this, an EMT that had dealt with her occasionally over the years had her pink slipped? (not sure if that's the right term). They basically forced her to be admitted to the hospital via ambulance ride. They hoped that her having to pay for the ride and other inconveniences would make her shy away from having fainting spells. And they were right. There was no more fainting. That is, until a year or so later. She showed up again, HF took the call from a concerned citizen, and when the EMTs showed up, she hadn't expected that the same EMT who pink slipped her previously would be on duty that day and recognize her. The EMT said, "Do you want to take another ride in the ambulance?" She hasn't been heard from since.

There were calls that stood out from others. One that changed him forever. Over a period of several months, a girl would call every once in a while wanting to commit suicide. HF always happened to take her calls, and always persuaded her to see a reason to live, while convincing her to talk to a professional counselor. One day, on his day off, he received a call from work. They were on the phone with Kelly (not her real name). She was threatening that she would kill herself if she couldn't talk to HF. I'm not sure what a dispatcher is trained to do in this situation, but the dispatcher put the call through to HF's cell. She had taken a bunch of pills, then stood on a mountain ledge. She was calling the only person that she thought cared about her. He convinced her to get off the ledge and to continue living. I came in the house and heard HF telling some girl that he did care about her, etc. That's when she was startled by workers that were sent to help her off the mountain. She slipped and fell off the ledge while she was on the phone with HF. She landed some feet below, but was still okay. I walked into the room and heard screaming on her end of the phone, and HF was shouting her name. HF continued talking to her, telling her to hold still and stay put. She was hysterical and then jumped to her death while holding the phone. The only sounds after that were of rescue workers making their way to her. It was chilling. I wish I hadn't heard any of it at all. Including HF's frantic voice.

For the next few months, HF would randomly start crying uncontrolably, space out, get angry and blame himself, those who responded, the dispatcher that sent the call to him on his day off. I was upset that the dispatcher sent the call to HF while he was at home! The department had him talk to a counselor. That helped a lot. Many officers in the department took it upon themselves to talk to him about many of their own experiences or firsts with traumatizing experiences. That helped a lot too. He eventually worked through this, and I believe this experience helped him immensely later on when he had to do this again, but for his own mother. She lived though.

I've learned a few things:
  1. The media rarely reports anything accurately
  2. Dispatchers are among those that have a thankless job. They are rarely recognized for the difference they make and the lives they save.
  3. HF is great at talking to people. He has been told numerous times (by callers) that he has a comforting and caring voice. The tapes from this call have since been used in widespread training. Apparently, he couldn't have done anything different or better. I was proud of him, but still wish that it hadn't affected him the way it did.
  4. I think being a dispatcher while he was in the academy, helped him to be a better cop. The dispatchers love him because he knows exactly what they have to do and what they are seeing when he is on the radio with them.


911 and the Randomness.. said...

I love all the officers that have been on my side too! It makes all the difference in the world. GO HF!!

The crazy Shaw Family said...

I know exactley how you feel. When my DH went from dispatch to street, I kind of expected a little fuss, but there was none.
It is hard when those kinds of situations happen. His worst was when he took a call for a SIDS baby, (shortly after we had had our son) and he could hear the mom screaming in the background, and the dad was sobbing into the phone.
He came home and hugged all our kids and sat for hours holding our youngest. He was too scared to put him to bed.
Dispatchers are amazing for what they have to put up with, and deal with.
(I know that DH is a little less forgiving now when they make mistakes, though, since he knows the procedures, and policies inside and out.)

Damsel Underdressed said...

He needs to know we, as a society, NEED to have people like him. He obviously has an innate gift and I am glad he is using it as it was intended.

Christopher said...

You're right that the media rarely gets any story completely accurate, and that dispatchers have a thankless job.

I can tell you that while my agency shares a dispatch center with three other cities, we always try to stress professionalism and to show courtesy and understanding with dispatch, and you can tell the difference over the air.

It's not a job I could ever do. I'm glad he can handle both sides of the call... in the end it makes him the more well rounded officer.

Paige said...

I just came across you blog, and love it. Thank you for this post! Props to HF on that call, I'm not sure how most dispatchers in my area would of have handled this situation. I can never imagine to myself.

I wish in my city (even though it is VERY small) we had more officers that had to experience calls from both sides. Maybe this would make them a little more understanding and forgiving on certain issues? Can't wait to see your future post.

Slamdunk said...

I am sure the call center misses HF, but it was a great experience for his policing career.

copswife said...

Wow. What a call. That's awful. I am sure being a dispatcher first was a great training ground for what he is doing now!

When I read your post name I paniced! I thought you were going to say you were going to quit blogging!

Wifey said...

Wow. All I can think of is Luke 12:48 - From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

I can't imagine how hard that must have been for HF, but he seems to be a wonderful person who truly cares for those around him. Thank you for sharing. Thank you to all the dispatchers out there reading this - you are greatly appreciated.

mrs. fuzz said...

Crazy Shaw- SIDS. nothing worse than a baby dying. NOTHING!

Damsel- thank you! I don't think officers can hear too much appreciation.

Christopher- There are definitely cops and dispatchers that make it hard to be professional and/or courteous I'm sure. Also, dispatchers that have no business dispatching. But there probably is much that could be done to bridge the gap between both sides.

Paige- welcome! thanks for your comment. I think it would be great if officers could spend a day dispatching and maybe dispatchers doing a ride along. Maybe that's not the right answer, but my little opinion. :)

Copswife-just keeping ya'll on your toes with the shocking post titles. :)

Wifey- thank you for the nice comment. and I definitely don't think dispatchers get the appreciation they deserve. They help keep officers safe!

Natalie said...

Thanks for this post! FH is also a people person (gets told life stories wherever we go...seriously) which makes him a great officer but is very trying in this line of work because he takes full responsibility for many outcomes and will always help, whether on or off duty. I'm finally getting it, but it was tough being on the back burner (or at least feeling that way).

I don't watch a lot of news anymore simply because of the one-sided view portrayed to the media.

Wifey said...

Does anyone know what happened with the blog: The Daily Chase? It seems to have been removed.

mrs. fuzz said...

Wifey-I'm not sure what happened. I was wondering myself.

copswife said...

I was wondering too. Hope she's OK.

Dispatcher X said...

Excellent post. Them transferring the call to him though, that's a rough one. Unfairly places the stress of it on him but it sounds like he did all that he sad.

He'll be a great officer....knows what it's like on the other side!