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Maine dispatcher helps father save drowned daughter
By Nok-Noi Ricker
WINN, Maine — The toddler who fell into a shallow well Saturday afternoon was unresponsive when pulled out by her father, who saved her life by doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her with help from a Penobscot Regional Communications Center dispatcher.
"I ran up and the father was on the phone with PRCC and CPR was under way," said Chad MacArthur, an intermediate emergency medical technician for Mattawamkeag Ambulance Service who lives down the street from the child's home on Route 168.
The emergency call came into the 911 dispatch center at about 3 p.m. and the father reported to dispatcher Tim Hall, a senior operator and shift supervisor, that his 2-year-old daughter apparently had drowned and was unresponsive.
Hall, using the skills he has honed in his years dispatching at the center, told the father — step by step — how to revive his young daughter, Jim Ryan, the communication center's executive director, said Monday.
Because they went through the steps, "we have a little girl that is still with us," Ryan said.
As MacArthur got to the young girl, she spat up water and the father "told me very quickly that she fell in the well very briefly and she just took a breath," he said.
The father, who was assisted by another man, possibly an uncle, stopped giving CPR and allowed MacArthur to assess his daughter's condition.
When she heard her name, "she slightly opened her eyes, but that was it. I scooped her up and into the back of the ambulance we went," the emergency responder said. "I ended up having to give a few rescue breaths, and we gave her oxygen."
The girl's father jumped into the front seat of the ambulance and they were taken to Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln, a 15-minute ride.
After the rescue breaths and oxygen, "the baby breathed about three or four times a minute" on her own when she first got into the ambulance, MacArthur said. "By the time we got to the hospital it was up to 18."
The 2-year-old is recuperating well, Mattawamkeag's assistant fire chief said Monday morning.
"She was up talking, eating supper — all is good," said Evelyn Powers, who also is the wife of Fire Chief Bobby Powers. "The last I heard, she was doing fantastic."
Chief Powers described the family as "joyful" after the girl began to breathe again and he praised Penobscot Regional Communication Center dispatchers who walked the father through the steps needed to save his daughter's life.
The girl's identity was not released because of health care privacy laws, and the father declined a request for an interview on Monday.
Fellow Route 168 resident Crystal Toby, who does not know the family involved, said she hopes her unknown neighbors know the community is behind them.
"We just wish them all the best," she said. "It must have been very traumatic. I just hope she recovers well."
Toby added that a lot of people have hand-dug wells in town.
The revived toddler was doing well enough to leave the hospital, according to Evelyn Powers.
"She's probably home already," she said.
Ryan said his dispatchers deal with emergency situations daily and that Saturday's incident was not the first time Hall has given CPR instructions.
"They deliver babies, they do EMDs [emergency medical dispatching], they help with CPR," he said. "We get a lot. Not all are successful."
MacArthur, the son of longtime Millinocket firefighter Larry MacArthur, said he followed his father's example as he was growing up.
"We're not heroes," he said. "We do this thing every day. The real heroes are the people at PRCC and the father — PRCC for talking someone through the steps, and the father for doing it."
Copyright 2011 Bangor Daily News