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From a Text Message to a Life Saved
Author: Audrey Frazier
Copyright: Copyright 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content,
Teamwork & Conviction Prevents Suicide in Saskatoon
Think you’re good at giving good driving directions, specifying street names, lane ends, and landmarks like the mountains east and west of your community?
The same ease probably wouldn’t apply in places around Saskatoon. The city in central Saskatchewan, Canada, sits on relatively flat terrain interrupted by a few hills leading into relatively shallow valleys. The landscape and temperatures are suggestive of the U.S. bread belt. The summers are very hot and the winters quite cold. This past winter, the city attracted nearly 160 snowball throwers in North America’s first ever Yukigassen Championship.
The landscape is perfect for long-range snowball shoot-outs, ice hockey, and Chuckwagon Racing at the city’s Prairieland Park. Relative to giving directions, however, the topography does present obstacles.
Just ask Ron Boechler, the police chief for Corman Park, a Rural Municipality (RM) located around Saskatoon. He’d have been lost without the guidance of MD Ambulance Dispatcher Kim Wruck. Without their teamwork, a young woman would not likely have survived the night.
Nearly three years ago, in July 2008, Wruck received a call at 2:30 a.m. from a woman concerned about a former high school friend. The two had reconnected that same night during a chance encounter at a grocery store. They hadn’t talked in almost five years and swapped phone numbers to catch-up later on each other’s lives.
The caller told Wruck that she started to receive text messages later that evening from the friend, progressing from depressed to very depressed in tone. She called 9-1-1. The only information available was a maiden name. The caller did not have a location, an address where the woman might be, or if the woman’s surname had changed.
Wruck didn’t think there was much she could do, but she tried anyway. She pulled out the maps of all rural municipalities in a 27-mile radius around Saskatoon and found a match to the maiden name in a rural pocket of Corman Park.
Wruck’s call over the radio alerted Boechler. Although he considered their chances minimal at best, the conviction in Wruck’s voice had him checking out the squad car he had been checking in at the close of his shift.
Over the next two hours, with only the RM map for navigation, Wruck guided Boechler through some of the toughest terrain to pilot in the dark. There are few street signs – impossible to read in the dark, anyway - and, unless you are familiar with the history or residents, getting lost is not all that difficult to do.
At one point, Boechler lost radio and phone reception. He stopped at a farmhouse, borrowing a cell phone from the puzzled resident to keep in contact with Wruck. In the meantime, the text messages had stopped. The woman’s phone was turned off. Boechler continued following Wruck’s lead.
“If Kim was willing to stay with this, so was I,” Boechler said. “But this was proving to be about as difficult as it comes.”
Boechler found the house, but his persistent knocks on the door yielded no answer. Wruck suggested a different mode of entry. Although hesitant, he was again persuaded by Wruck’s instincts and conviction.
Inside on the floor, Boechler found the young woman they had been seeking. She was unconscious and within 10 minutes of his arrival, she stopped breathing. He revived her using CPR and waited for the ambulance to arrive. Although a trained paramedic, the thought persisted: had he done enough?
Wruck assured him he had.
“[She] stayed the calm voice needed when the whole world is falling apart around you,” he said.
The woman made a full recovery. In February 2011, Boechler presented Wruck a commendation for her efforts.
Wruck finds the incident remarkable and credits the team’s detective work.
“She survived and we found her,” said Wruck, a dispatcher for nearly 10 years. “We couldn’t drop it. We weren’t willing to give up.”
Audrey Fraizer is the managing editor for the National Journal of Emergency Dispatch.