*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.
When we think of life-saving medical maneuvers, surgeons and paramedics usually come to mind. We picture frantic CPR, 14-hour surgeries, and those electric things that pulse people back to life.
But 911 operators are massively important to the life-saving equation too.
They're the first ones we talk to in the midst of emergency. They're tasked with retrieving information, calming us down, and arranging the appropriate logistics to allow those more traditional first aid images to occur at all.
And on top of all of that, those operators go through so much. They have to hear some of the most depressing, alarming, gruesome details and maintian composure in the face of it all.
Then, hours, days, or even years later, they process all they heard.
According to a recent Reddit thread, all that processing can take a toll.
layyschipss06 asked, "911 operators of Reddit, what is a call that keeps you up at night?"
Many heard the intimate details surrounding someone's decision to take their own life. These operators were on the phone when those tragic discoveries were first made by a loved one.
"I'm a firefighter and I overheard a call on the radio from another unit. They were dispatched to a possible suicide. The information given while the crews were en route was 'patient's wife came home and found a note on the the door saying 'honey I'm already gone if your reading this please do not come in and see me like this' ' "
"The crews arrived and the next thing you hear on the radio was the paramedic telling dispatch 'code 4' (meaning patient is deceased) and in the background you can hear the wife screaming bloody murder as loud as she could. It was chilling"
"1 am and the phone rings and I pick up to hear a man screaming on the other end. No words. Just screaming."
"Finally get him to tell me what happened and he told me he heard a gun shot in his house and went to see what happened and found his brother in his room. He had shot himself."
Christmas, Forever Associated
"Worst call I got was when I worked overtime on Christmas Day and got a call from a father who returned from a business trip and found his 19 year old son hanging in the bedroom."
"Haunts me until today."
Other people struggled most with the calls that involved the deaths of young children or the tragic futures of kids just as young. Whether by accident or on purpose, some times the tragedy of a life cut short is a reality we have to encounter.
Just Trying to Help
"I had a witness to a fatal motorcycle collision on the phone with me and he goes 'someone's crossing the road to help OH MY GOD SHE JUST GOT HIT BY A CAR, SHE'S DEAD TOO!' And he just screamed and screamed and hung up."
"An off-duty nurse who stopped to help the motorcycle rider was hit by another car and killed. It was on the news later and I found out she had a husband and two very young kids. I was on worker's comp for about 3 weeks while I recovered from that one."
Nothing For Her to See
"I got a 911 call about a vehicle that ran off the road. The caller told me that the female driver was unconscious but had a pulse. He then proceeded to tell me that the passenger was a fatal. I asked if he had checked for a pulse at which point he told me no."
"It was a young child that had been decapitated. I asked him to find anything he could to cover the child because I didn't want the mother to regain consciousness and have that be the last image she had of her child."
Imagine Hearing That
"My aunt listened to a 12-year old girl and her friend get murdered by her dad. She hasn't been the same since."
"The girl's mother killed him that night. She was just recently let off with no charges--they were gonna charge her for murder."
Sudden and Unknown
"Dispatched about 20 years ago. My last 911 call was. Mom coming home from work at 11 am and couldn't wake baby."
"Baby died from SIDS."
Others talked about when logistics got screwed up for some reason or another. The guilt they felt in those moments was unbearable.
A Fatal Oversight
"It was 9:30am. I'd been on shift since 7am. All the ambulances had checked in for morning mileage and radio checks. All was good."
"Call comes in on the emergency line. 'MY SON IS NOT BREATHING.' "
"Ok, we got this. Start going through the steps of checking for a pulse/breath while dispatching the closest ambulance."
"I'm almost to the part where we start CPR when the ambulance calls back 'Dispatch, our rig is dead.' YOU GOT TO BE FU**ING KIDDING ME. YOU CALLED IN THIS MORNING WITH A RADIO CHECK. DID YOU NOT CHECK YOUR GOD DAMN AMBULANCE?"
"Nearest ambulance is ONE WHOLE COUNTY OVER. 30 minutes. 30 minutes for a situation that needs IMMEDIATE medical intervention."
"The mother is screaming on the phone, crying. The sister comes in and starts screaming the name of her brother."
"I have to tell them the ETA for an ambulance is 30 minutes."
"It's been almost 10 years since I was in EMS Dispatch and I occasionally wake up in a cold sweat thinking about that call."
Time to Go
"About 9 at night a woman calls calmly asking for an ambulance as her husband had passed out. After 10+ minutes of trying to get London Ambulance to answer the phone, she hangs up. I stay on the line and another 10 minutes later they answer, I relay the situation and address and they confirm they'll do a drive-by (basically get the nearest available unit to visit the property - see what's happening)."
"Half an hour later the same woman calls back, exact same reason for calling, once again I'm on hold for London ambulance to answer for 10+ minutes, out of the blue she comes onto the phone and calmly says 'don't bother, he's just died' and puts the phone down again, this time it doesn't disconnect and I hear the most heart-wrenching wail of despair from the same woman, she then goes into a teary rant about how useless everything is and how London Ambulance killed her husband, before the line cuts off again."
"Get through to the ambulance service, explain everything and the operator confirms the drive-by got cancelled because the ambulance it was assigned to had finished their shift."
"I didn't sleep that night and cried more tears than I ever had done previously. Next day I went into the office an hour before my shift was set to start, emptied my locker, gave all my work stuff to my boss and quit on the spot."
Felt Like Eternity
"Doesn't keep me up at night but I do think about it time to time. Had a daughter call in for her elderly mother experiencing chest pains. 10 minutes pass and I call for an eta. They tell me they're there. The daughter gave me the wrong address they had recently moved and she gave the old address."
"The chest pains turned to trouble breathing. Eta 10 minutes. Mother isn't responding. Daughter is crying over the line. Paramedics arrive perform cpr and even use the defibrillator. Sadly she didn't make it. I heard all this over the phone at the time it hit me a bit hard but you get over it."
In response to a list like this, all we can say is thank you. Thank you to all those involved in life-saving responses to the emergencies that strike us.
And a special thanks to the 911 operators who hear it all and still do what they need to help us stay safe.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/
ER dispatchers seriously aren't paid enough. The stress and trauma that this job comes with is insurmountable, and deserves a lot of respect. Some of the calls they get can be life changing, not just for the people involved, but also the dispatchers themselves.
u/King_bob992 asked: Emergency service dispatchers, what is the scariest call you have ever gotten?
You're definitely in the right profession.
One of the first calls I ever took. Woman calls up and asks about the process of filing a restraining order. She discusses how her boyfriend has been abusive and controlling. Mid conversation the doorbell rings, she puts me on hold opens the door and I hear yelling.
Guy barges in and starts beating on her and I'm sitting there helpless listening, because I didn't have her address yet. Luckily, I did have her name and within a few minutes we got her address and got help to her. She was pretty badly injured but lived, and he is still in jail.
That call made me doubt myself and if I was in the right profession, but I stuck with it and it has been a very rewarding (though sometimes sad) profession.
Not a dispatcher but a paramedic. But a man called, saying his mom had severe chest pains. So we head over to their address in a hurry. However, there was no mom, just the caller waiting for us and then robbing us at gun point saying be were going to kill us. He just wanted the drugs, but was quite shocking still.
Always going through my mind when entering some shady neighbourhood.
That's so heartbreaking.
I work for a sheriff's office and a good friend of mine was a dispatcher. I stepped outside one day for a smoke and my buddy was standing there shaking and crying. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that he had just dispatched a call for his best friend.
His friend was a former army sniper and had only been out for a few months. He was a volunteer fire fighter and was responding to a house fire, rolled the truck, and had beed decapitated. Guy had 5 young daughters.
Call came in and was flagged as a frequent caller on the a** end of a very rural county. The dude was just screaming. We couldn't make out anything he was saying but we had his address and sent every available unit we had. After a while the screaming started to die down and his breathing got very labored. He wouldn't talk to us but he just kept muttering. After a few minutes we realized he was praying.
Few minutes later deputy arrived on scene. Heard him check in on scene and also heard him on the line. First noise I heard was him vomiting. Turned out the dude had been working on his car and the lift collapsed. The guy wasn't under the car but was between it and a tree when the car started rolling. He was impaled on a branch and pinned between the tree and car.
Dude lived. He's a quadriplegic but he's alive. First legit 911 call he ever made and everyone took their sweet time getting there because it was usually nonsense.
I am a emergency helicopter dispatcher so I get calls from EMS in rural areas. First question I always ask is, "what is the closest city to the scene?" I swear 80% of these people do not know how to pronounce it correctly and 50% of them do not know how to spell it.
One time this guy cut his d**k off on bath salts. When he came too he realized what he did and called us directly.
I worked as a jailer for a while after getting out of the Marines. We had a dispatcher who had 2 kids. Both boys one a POS that was always in jail the other younger troubled and riding a dangerous line. She got the call one night that her younger son got shot twice in a drug deal gone wrong at a public park where he was playing ball.
He was dead before the helicopter got in the air most likely. The dispatch center was connected to the jail where she had to work less than 50 yards from the man who shot her son. She was pretty tore up.
Not EMS, but work for a domestic violence shelter that offers sexual assault services. Will never forget talking to this one woman, and her husband came home during the call and she must have dropped the phone in the process but then I could just hear her screaming and him yelling. That will stay with me forever I'm sure. I really wish we had been able to get her help before that happened.
That is the worst call I've had. But I find it so hard when children call, just always breaks my heart.
Good for them for not pushing themselves.Giphy
When I was younger, I applied to be a 911 operator for the city I was living in northern California. I got through most of their tests and interviews, which there were numerous. The pool of applicants was over 200 for about 8 positions. I got down to the last dozen applicants then they played some recordings for us.
The recording I listened to was a young girl calling 911 from inside a closet. She was crying and hysterical saying that her dad was in the house with a gun and was going to kill her mom. You could hear the mother screaming in the background and the operator was really calm and collected. She got the little girl to keep her voice down and whisper and tried to keep her on the line. You could hear the gunshots in the background.
I couldn't listen to it anymore. I didn't want to find out what happened next, so I don't know the outcome. I knew I couldn't handle that then. I don't think I could take something like that now.
There was an accident once on a somewhat busy state road here. An older couple in an suv pulled out onto the road without seeing a motorcyclist that was going well over 100 mph. He rear ended them, died instantly and plowed through the suv, landing halfway through the windshield. The suv flipped a couple times and landed on the passenger side, trapping the wife. Then it caught on fire.
At my dispatch center we had 3 of us working at all times, and I don't even know how many 911 calls we instantly got when this happened. Dozens, I'm sure. After I sent the FD and they got on the way(this is a rural area and this intersection was probably a good ten minutes south of them), some bystanders managed to get the husband out of the suv but he died in the helicopter on the way to the hospital, I believe. The wife burned alive.
Honestly the worst part was right after I dispatched the FD, one of the lieutenants on the biggest police department in my county happened to be driving through there with his family and he called 911. I'll never forget how panicked and frantic he was on that call. I had never heard any of our officers like that before, let alone one of the administrators. We were pretty friendly with all of them so it shook me up. After I hung up with him I just started sobbing.
The strength it must take to move past that...
My sister works as a dispatcher. Her first week on the job, she had a man call in, saying he was going to kill himself. He told her that she couldn't do anything to change his mind; he was simply trying to let her know where he could be found. She heard the gunshot through the call.
Second one, she had a little girl call in because her dad was unresponsive. She knew that CPR would likely save this man, but the daughter wasn't grown enough and didn't have the strength to perform it effectively. My sister had to tell her to leave the room, because the longer that girl stayed in there trying fruitlessly to save her father, the more scarred she would become by the experience of watching her father die.
Both are horrifying.Giphy
Former 000 calltaker reporting in. Scariest one would have to be one of the very first calls I took while I was training.
A young man rang up and it was evident from his voice that he was in shock. His exact words were "I've just hit a motorbike rider who was coming around a blind bend on the wrong side of the road. I think I've killed him."
From dealing with a few noise complaints to a car accident with a possible fatality was a massive switch, and this was only my second shift taking calls in training.
The motorbike rider did not survive that accident.
Second scariest would be when someone was working down a well and was overcome by generator fumes. His wife tried to rescue him but she fell off the ladder, injured herself as a result and was unable to help her husband. So there's one possibly dead male in the well and his wife is in danger of dying as well. And all of this is in a remote location that I am completely unfamiliar with.
We didn't save the male. We did, however, manage to save his wife.
My answer from a similar thread:
The one that always sticks with me was the time I had to tell a father how to cut his 15 year old son down after he had hung himself. He was actively reciting reasons why he may have been a bad parent while doing it. I'll remember that until the day I die.
Obligatory posting on behalf of my mom.
She answered 000 police emergency calls (Australian 911). The top two:
A woman phoned up. She had a restraining order on her ex-husband, had come home to furniture moved positions inside the house. Whilst checking rooms she noticed handprints on the wall leading up to the roof cavity access point. This was slightly ajar. Mom tells her to leave. Woman decides nope, she's Dora the explorer and gets a chair. She stands on it, starts to lift the cover and it gets slammed back down. Yep, hubby in the roof. He'd been there a while (days).
2nd: a call comes in from a remote outback community. Someone's using a machete to stab their way into a door while laughing maniacally. There are no street addresses or house numbers to ID the location and the caller cannot give a location. Nearest police are 2 hours away. Mom just heard screaming, then gurgling, then silence then whistling.
I was working at a small agency during a storm. We would work 1 person in dispatch per shift, as it was pretty common to go an entire overnight shift without a single call.
The local hospital called and said "A tornado just hit the hospital."
Turns out, the tornado dropped directly on top of the hospital, moves across the street to the college dorms and destroyed at least one of them.
There must have been multiple 'naders because all of our phone lines lit up and everyone was saying a tornado just hit their house.
The town close by had a couple fires, our paging system went down (meaning no paging out our volunteer fire guys, 3 officers in total for the entire fucking county, and all of our medics tied up at the hospital.
The calls would go like this: "Are you injured? Do you feel safe enough to drive yourself to the hospital?" If they said yes, I'd tell them to make their way to the staging area at the hospital, if no, I had to write it down and have one of the other agencies sending help to check on them.
Luckily the college was on an extended weekend so hardly anyone was in the dorms.
I still have anxiety issues when I'm at work when a storm hits.
Don't do drugs.
My dad's friend got a call from a man who claimed there was an alien in his stomach. When they got to him they discovered he cut his own stomach open and took his insides outside.
The knife was lying in his flesh next to the body. The man was high on some drugs.