“So listen carefully, I want you to pump the chest hard and fast at least twice per second, OK?” That was Tooele County 911 dispatcher Courtney Soffel on June 10, 2012.
She was giving CPR instructions to Josh Hinckley, whose wife was on the floor of their home in severe pain, 20 weeks pregnant.
“So count out loud so I can count with you, she said. OK, go ahead.” Josh began compressions on his wife’s chest, counting aloud, “One, two, three, four, five ” This went on for several more minutes until paramedics arrived.
It’s a phone call that no one ever wants to make. But Josh’s decision to make that call, and the quick actions of emergency responders certainly saved the life of his wife, Cali.
It was an 11-minute call, which stirred a lot of emotion again as it was replayed Wednesday at the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office. For the first time since the incident, Josh and his wife finally got to meet those who came to their aid. “I've been trying to track them down for the last two years since the incident,” Josh said. “And it's just a good day to finally meet them and give them a hug and say thank you.”
Cali said it meant a lot to see the faces of those who acted so quickly. “It meant everything to me,” she said. “This is their story. I mean I'm a part of it, but these ladies and these professionals are the ones who saved me. It chokes me up because they did everything they could to save my life, and without every single one of them, I wouldn't be here today.”
Cali was suffering from complications from amniotic fluid getting into her bloodstream, a condition that’s fatal most of the time. But because of the quick decisions of people like dispatcher Yvonne Gale, who called for an AirMed helicopter; flight nurses Amanda Lawrence and Windi Bray who arrived within minutes, and the constant phone instructions by Soffel, Cali survived. The baby, however, died.
Cali spent several more weeks in and out of the hospital because of complications, but, except for some minor short-term memory issues, she has made a complete recovery.
For Soffel, who has been a Tooele County 911 dispatcher for about five years, most of the time she doesn’t hear about what her actions did to those on the other end of the phone call. “It seems like it takes forever, because we just want to paint as much of a clear picture for the responders as we can so they know what they're getting into when they get there,” she said. “A lot of times we don't know exactly what's going on when we take the call. We just try to go off the picture that people paint for us. It's just amazing to see them here all together today.”
Josh and Cali took a brief tour Wednesday of the 911 dispatch center and saw where Soffel talked Josh through all the procedures. “I wouldn't have known what to do,” Josh said. “It was kind of a state of shock for me. Courtney did a great job of walking me through it and just kind of keeping me calm.”
Soffel and Yvonne Gale were presented with a special Meritorious Service Citation from the International Academies of Emergency Dispatchers. The Hinckley case has also been written about in Air Rescue magazine, an international publication focusing on the air rescue and air ambulance industry.
Amanda Lawrence, one of the flight nurses on the AirMed helicopter that transported Cali, said this case illustrates how people from various emergency agencies working together can make a huge difference in saving someone’s life. “We're a very visible part of the EMS world. People see the helicopters and all that, and we get a lot of publicity for that,” she said. “But we are part of such a huge team that none of this would have happened, this family would not be here today, if every single thing that happened that day hadn't happened the way that it did.”
Keith McCord is a reporter and also anchors the weekend newscasts on KSL-TV (NBC) in Salt Lake City.