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Valley dispatcher acts fast to save life at call center

Staff photo / Nathanael Hawthorne Shana Murphy, left, and Katelyn Bower, talk about an incident that saw Murphy choke while the two were working their Thursday shift at the Trumbull County 911 Dispatch center. Bower acted quickly and performed the Heimlich maneuver on Murphy, who said Friday she could not breathe and Bower saved her. Aside from being co-workers, Murphy and Bower also are friends.

HOWLAND — When there is an emergency, usually 911 is called, but what happens when 911 needs to call 911?

Thursday afternoon, thanks to the heroic effort of Trumbull County dispatcher Katelyn Bower, a choking Shana Murphy, also a dispatcher, didn’t need to find out that answer.

“I knew I was in trouble,” Murphy recalled.

About 5:30 p.m. Thursday, right after finishing a dispatch call for a pursuit in Liberty, Murphy was eating a steak when she started choking. She said it felt as if the piece of meat went down wrong and knew immediately something was wrong.

“I sat back in my chair and kept trying to swallow harder to get it to go down and it wouldn’t. I jumped up because I realized I was in trouble,” Murphy said.

A HEROIC ACT

Bower said Murphy looked like she was in distress and asked if she was choking.

“She nodded. I asked if she needed the Heimlich and she nodded again. I proceeded to help her as best as I could,” Bower said.

Bower gave Murphy the Heimlich maneuver twice, she said. To Murphy, the second time was scarier than the first.

“She had to do it a second time because when I moved my neck or something after she did it the first time, I had a little bit of airflow but then (the steak) completely lodged itself,” Murphy said. “I knew at that point I was in trouble because I had absolutely no air. Had she not reacted and did (the Heimlich) as good as she did, I don’t know what the outcome would have been.”

It was the second time she was choking when Murphy said she started to panic a little. Murphy said she is grateful to Bower for acting so quickly.

“I thanked her because she did save me,” Murphy said, recounting the time after she could breathe.

Murphy, a seven year veteran of the dispatch center, said she and Bower have been friends since Bower started at the dispatch center one-and-a-half years ago. At a press conference, the two were joking around with each other as if the incident never happened.

“She’s my BFF, she’s family,” Murphy said of Bower.

When it came to acting quickly, Bower said it was second nature to help.

“I just did it,” she said. “I think we’re trained to stay calm in situations, but in general I just acted.”

The whole incident happened in just under 60 seconds.

FUTURE PRECAUTIONS

Trumbull County dispatch interim director, Patty Goldner, said she wasn’t made aware of the incident until Friday morning.

“I received my email and once I got in, I started researching it. I wanted to see the video of how the events happened,” Goldner said. “First and foremost I called Shana to see if she was OK.”

Goldner said she then called Bower to let her know how thankful she was.

“It was just incredibly heroic for her to, without skipping a beat, just jump right in and do what needed to be done,” Goldner said.

Speaking on Bower’s reaction to the incident, Goldner credits the dispatcher’s job description — staying calm in times of emergency — as an indicator of why Bower was able to remain calm.

“I think that helped her know immediately what needed to happen,” Goldner said.

Moving forward, Goldner said the dispatchers will be given instruction and classes on CPR so they can not only help each other should an incident like Thursday’s arise again, but also properly instruct callers who are having an emergency where CPR is needed.

For now, however, Murphy joked and said she’s going on a liquid diet.

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