Linda Hargadon, a dispatcher for the Provo Police Department, says there's a thought that flits through the back of a dispatcher's mind when the 911 line lights up.
"The kind of call you don't want is one involving someone not breathing, especially a baby," Hargadon said.Why? Because most of the time the baby dies.
Hargadon had that in mind when the 911 phone rang at approximately 6:18 p.m. May 19. Hargadon and dispatcher Ann Ri-chey were extremely busy; they were in the middle of handling a heart attack on the other 911 line. But within seconds Hargadon's attention was fully focused on the second emergency call.
"Here was a voice saying, `My baby's not breathing; she's blue but still warm,' " Hargadon said.
On the other end of the line was Maggie McGuire of Provo. She had returned home from a friend's house approximately 20 minutes before. On the way home, her 2-month-old daughter, Toni, had fallen asleep. McGuire had put her to bed. When she checked on Toni 15 minutes later, she found the baby was not breathing and was blue.
McGuire, a certified nurse's aide who is trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, says her mind went blank and the only thing she could think to do was to call 911.
As Hargadon began instructing McGuire on how to try to revive her baby, Richey dispatched emergency medical personnel and equipment to the McGuire residence.
"You're always hoping it will only take two puffs and you'll hear a cry," Hargadon said.
McGuire breathed into her daughter's lifeless body as instructed by Hargadon. "I asked her, `Is she breathing?' " Hargadon said. "She said, `No, no, she's not breathing.' I told her to check her pulse, and she said she didn't feel anything."
Hargadon told McGuire how to do pulmonary resuscitation; after five compressions, the baby still had not responded. Hargadon told her to keep doing the compressions and breaths until the paramedics arrived.
"She left the phone and I didn't hear anything else until the paramedics arrived," Hargadon said.
With help on the scene, McGuire hung up the phone. Hargadon, who has four children of her own, sat back in her chair. She had, she thought, lost another baby.
She was wrong. After the paramedics returned to the station, they called Hargadon to tell her that as they walked in the McGuire residence, the baby had gasped, started to breathe . . . and to cry.
"It was incredible," Hargadon said. "It had been such a stressful situation that I didn't even ask the mom's name or for her phone number. I went home and all night I kept thinking that this was a real human being . . . and she's really alive." For a moment, Hargadon's eyes fill with tears. "You hate to lose touch with someone like that."
Thursday, during a dispatcher's seminar, Provo Police Chief Swen Nielsen and Capt. Jerry Markling paid tribute to Hargadon and Richey. McGuire and her daughter were there to meet the dispatchers.
Markling said there has been a lot of negative publicity recently about dispatchers that was unwarranted. "The communications people do a hell of a job and aren't recognized as often as they should be for the good job they do."
Last week a mix-up with a dispatcher in Salt Lake County led to police officers being sent to a Sandy residence instead of to the Midvale residence of the caller, who was raped. Police officers were later able to arrest a man in connection with that rape, however.
Hargadon said that often dispatchers are just voices on one end of a phone line talking to voices on the other end. Getting to meet McGuire and 2-month-old Toni "made it real," she said.
"This is why I became a dispatcher," Hargadon said. "You have points where you think you aren't making a difference. But this is one of those times I did make a difference."