‘I’m a life saved’

Emergency dispatcher, cardiac arrest victim meet

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery

EAST ROCKINGHAM — Since its first days welcoming Army airplanes during World War II, what is now Richmond County Airport has hosted a large number of gatherings for a wide variety of causes and reasons.

Still, there was something special about the lunch-time meeting on Wednesday. That’s because Arlene Gordon was a surprise guest for the 18th annual Richmond County Public Safety Telecommunications Luncheon.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Dawn Belk, left, meets Arlene Gordon, the woman whose life Belk helped save on April 27, 2014.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Dawn Belk, left, meets Arlene Gordon, the woman whose life Belk helped save on April 27, 2014.

You see, Gordon died on April 27, 2014.

That Sunday morning around 6, Gordon’s husband Carl discovered her eyes rolled back. She was making gurgling noises. Had Gordon been aware, the registered nurse who has worked much of her career with cardiac patients would have been able to tell herself what was wrong: Gordon was in full cardiac arrest.

Carl called 911. Dawn Belk, then 25 years old with barely a year of emergency dispatching experience with Richmond County Emergency Services, answered the phone. Belk calmly directed Carl through the steps of CPR while first-responders were dispatched to their Hamlet home. It was for her role in saving Gordon’s life that Belk was named Telecommunicator of the Year for Richmond County Emergency Services.

Gordon said she was admitted to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital and spent days in the hospital. Or so she’s told.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com "I'm a life saved," said Arlene Gordon, right, while hugging Dawn Belk, named Richmond County Emergency Services Telecommunicator of the Year.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
“I’m a life saved,” said Arlene Gordon, right, while hugging Dawn Belk, named Richmond County Emergency Services Telecommunicator of the Year.

“I think I remember Day 9,” said Gordon, 56, recalling that was when health care workers moved her from the intensive care unit. “I don’t even remember getting out of the bed and falling on the floor.”

Gordon’s adult children lived at their Hamlet home at the time, but Arlene said Carl “never once called for anyone to come help him.”

It was all up to Belk. It was a good choice. EMS personnel arrived and whisked Gordon away. She arrived and the Pinehurst hospital and after nearly two weeks in the hospital, never gave the phone call between her husband and Belk much thought.

“As a nurse, I think about being an RN,” Gordon said, “but I need once thought about what part telecommunicators play.”

Shortly before noon Wednesday, Gordon was called into the room of nearly three dozen telecommunicators and law enforcement officers, including Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly and Hamlet Police Chief Scott Waters. Gordon told part of her story and then looked for the first person in the line of many who worked her case that day. Gordon didn’t know who Belk was, and Belk didn’t know she had been chosen to receive the award.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Hamlet Police Department Chief Scott Waters thanks dispatchers Loretta Sears, Shannon Ellerbe, Judi Dennis and Cindy Ojeda.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Hamlet Police Department Chief Scott Waters thanks dispatchers Loretta Sears, Shannon Ellerbe, Judi Dennis and Cindy Ojeda.

The two embraced once the dots were connected, and to Belk’s continued surprise, her husband Brad, himself a Union County sheriff’s deputy, and their almost 2-year-old daughter, Blair, were in the hallway waiting.

The day was full of surprises.

“She doesn’t even know I’m here,” said Brad before the luncheon, adding he had notified Blair’s daycare to ensure a frantic mom wouldn’t come looking for Blair.

Brad looked at Arlene.

“I didn’t know you were going to be here,” he said.

Donna Wright, agency director, noted Belk had a second save in the same 24 hours. A man in his 20s was shopping at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet on Highway Business 74 when he experienced a cardiac issue. Once again, Belk answered the emergency call for help and gently guided the person on the other end of the line through the necessary steps to help save the man’s life until more experienced personnel arrived.

“This is rare,” Wright said. “Saves are rare.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly thanks two dispatchers, Teresa Prisk and Jeanette Asbury, and three others - Pam Daughtery, Tammy Morton and Gena Pevoto (not pictured).

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly thanks two dispatchers, Teresa Prisk and Jeanette Asbury, and three others – Pam Daughtery, Tammy Morton and Gena Pevoto (not pictured).

Kelly recognized all five Rockingham Police Department dispatchers — Teresa Prisk, Jeanette Asbury, Pam Daughtery, Tammy Morton and Gena Pevoto — and recognized the importance of the role telecommunicators play.

They deal “with people dealing with their worst situations at the time of their lives,” Kelly said. “A lot of officers couldn’t do it.”

Emergency dispatchers, Kelly said, are “very special to us.”

Waters recognized four telecommunicators — Loretta Sears, Shannon Ellerbe, Judi Dennis and Cindy Ojeda — and said a word without them is not what he wants. They deserve a raise, he said.

“I can’t imagine a day … without our dispatchers,” Waters said. “They’re the backbone of our department.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Richmond County Sheriff's Office Capt. Jeff Starling recognizes the efforts of Wendi Clewis, Mindi Grant, Debbie Grooms, Renea Smith, Micihael Morman, Kim Sharpe and Amber Shepard.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jeff Starling recognizes the efforts of Wendi Clewis, Mindi Grant, Debbie Grooms, Renea Smith, Micihael Morman, Kim Sharpe and Amber Shepard.

Capt. Jeff Starling, of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, took time to recognize all seven of his agency’s telecommunicators — Wendi Clewis, Mindi Grant, Debbie Grooms, Renea Smith, Micihael Morman, Kim Sharpe and Amber Shepard.

“I, for one, couldn’t do it,” Starling said. “I can’t multitask very well.”

April 12 through April 18 is National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week. April is also 9-1-1 Education Month.

 

Filed in: Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety, Rockingham

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