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:
- The media rarely reports anything accurately
- Dispatchers are among those that have a thankless job. They are rarely recognized for the difference they make and the lives they save.
- 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.
- 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.