The Fredrick Post, Fredrick, MO
Saturday, June 3, 2000

submitted by William E. Adams Frederick County, MD Quality Assurance Coordinator
pdf of story

Dispatcher's Instructions Save Toddler
By Susan C. Nicol, News-Post Staff

The blond toddler romped around the living room with his sister and cousin while struggling to hold on to a large plasitic water bottle Thursday evening.

The day before, in the same room, Hunter Bowman turned purple and passed out after choking on a grape.

He lived to play another day thanks to his aunt Candy Lawson and a dispatcher at Fredrick County Emergency Communications Center.

"He was just gasping for air," Ms. Lawson recalled. "His teeth were clenched, and he was fighting me."

Blows to his back between the shoulder blades had failed to dislodge the grape that was completely blocking the boy's throat.

When Emergency Medical Dispatcher Phil Lambert answered Ms. Lawson's call, he knew immediately the child's airway was completely blocked. "She said he was blue and gurgling." he said.

While another dispatcher alerted an ambulance, Mr. Lambert flipped to his guidelines for a choking toddler. "She was a bit frantic for a second or two, but she listenened," he said of Ms. Lawson.

Ms. Lawson said she was doing OK until her nephew passed out.

"He was purple from head to toe. It scared me to death," she said. she told Mr. Lambert, 'He'd dying right here in my arms.'"

But Ms. Lawson said the man on the phone told her to listen and follow his directions, and she managed to calm down. By this time, she said the limp child was foaming from the mouth.

"Using two fingers, I gave five quick thrusts or compressions on his chest between the nipples," she said.

"Nothing. But as I started the second time, the grape popped out."

"I could hear him crying," Mr. Lambert said. "It was a good sound... When I answered the phone, I could hear other children crying. I listened to what she was telling me. When the grape popped out, he was crying right along with the rest of them."

The dispatcher of 24 years said he was pleased with the successful outcome. "She did a good job."

The boy was taken to his physician, who prescribed antibiotics to guard against lung infection.

Ms. Lawson complimented Mr. Lambert's calm demeanor and professionalism. "I think I thanked him," she said with a laugh.

Fredrick County was the second county in the state to train it's employees to give pre-arrival instructions in accordance with the National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatchers, said Randy Waesche, ECC director.

When a person calls 911, the dispatcher flips to a protocol guide to instruct the caller how to care for the patient until help arrives.

"I thank God she did it." Ms. Bowman said as she watched her son play."