Telecommunicators recognized for saving a life

Published 7:45 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Three Beaufort County telecommunicators were recognized by the state last week for their role in saving a woman’s life in June.

On Aug. 26, Gov. Pat McCrory hosted public safety officials and first responders at the Executive Mansion to recognize Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office 911 Center telecommunicators Linwood McLawhorn, Victoria VanNortwick and Will Caputo.

The three were working at the 911 Center on June 9, when a call came in from Northside High School, where Amelia Davidson was attending her grandson’s eighth-grade graduation ceremony.

“Our telecommunicators went through Emergency Medical Dispatch and determined she was having a stroke,” said Beaufort County Communications Director Vic Williams. “Through that, it was confirmed that she was having a stroke right then.”

It was a team effort: while Caputo worked through the EMD protocol to diagnose the emergency, Van Nortwick and McLawhorn were behind the scenes handling all the radio traffic, Willams said. Beaufort County EMS 8 from Belhaven and Medic 3 responded, but already on scene, attending the graduation, were several members of Pinetown EMS and two nurses who began patient care.

Thinking ahead, the telecommunicators dispatch a helicopter to the scene, Williams said. The Vidant East Care helicopter and crew landed on a ball field at Northside, he said.

“Within 45 minutes, she was in Greenville in surgery,” Williams said.

The telecommunicators’ quick action and ability to quickly determine the cause of Davidson’s collapse likely saved her life, Williams said.

At last week’s event, McCrory thanked Caputo, shift supervisor VanNortwick and McLawhorn for their service and presented each with an award from the state 911 board.

“911 operators are first responders that often don’t get the attention they deserve for helping save lives every day,” McCrory said at the time. “We are determined to thank and support all first responders and public safety officials who help protect North Carolina families.”

“As a director, I think of it as a recognition for telecommunicators across the state. They do it all the time, multiple times a day, but they never get recognized for what they do,” Williams said.

Williams said 911 is a completely different proposition than the services provided in the past when telecommunicators’ role was to answer the phone and simply send fire, police or EMS to the scene of an emergency.

“In today’s world, they’re on the phone for 10-15 minutes, whether it’s just comforting (the caller) or giving someone lifesaving instructions,” Williams said.