Receptionist on phone with patient when she hears strange sounds. Her quick-thinking saves a life

“Her dog started barking, and I kept asking her if she was there. For two minutes, I kept asking for her. I knew she hadn’t hung up. I knew something was wrong.”
July 13, 2018 3:19 pm Last Updated: July 13, 2018 3:19 pm

Molly Jelinek is a receptionist at the Truhlsen Eye Institute in Omaha, Nebraska. She makes a habit of calling patients to remind them of their upcoming appointment.

“She lives in Lexington, Nebraska, and I always like to talk to out-of-town patients to find out what day and time would work best and if they’ll have transportation,” Jelinek said to Nebraska Medicine.

Most of the calls are brief, lasting just a few seconds, and with no surprises. But, the call she made to 75-year-old Elaine Cox, on April 20, is one she won’t soon forget.

Cox, who lives more than 200 miles away from the Truhlsen Eye Institute, doesn’t remember much. The last thing she can recall before passing out was standing at her kitchen counter, scribbling notes about her upcoming doctor’s appointment.

Jelinek and Cox had been on the phone for about 10 minutes when the receptionist remarked that Cox stopped responding. That’s when Jelinek said she heard abrupt noises coming from the other end of the phone.

She described the sound of boxes falling to the floor, a door slam, and repetitive barking from Cox’s dog, Daisy.

“Her dog started barking, and I kept asking her if she was there,” Jelinek said. “For two minutes, I kept asking for her. I knew she hadn’t hung up. I knew something was wrong.”

Jelinek put Cox’s call on hold and dialed 911. She still wasn’t sure what had happened, but she had a feeling Cox needed help.

“I honestly thought there was an intruder in her apartment,” Jelinek said to Live Well Nebraska.

After 10 minutes without hearing a response from the senior patient, Cox started to regain her wits, sprawled out on her living room floor. She’d fainted while talking on the phone, which doctors later discovered was the result of dehydration.

The senior citizen heard a buzzing coming from her cellphone, and when she picked it up, Jelinek was still on the other end. The receptionist told her help was on the way, and she would stay on the phone until it arrived.

“I said ‘where have you been?’ She said ‘I passed out.’ She had no idea why she was on the phone with me,” Jelinek said.

Doctors were able to treat Cox without much complication, and she made it to her appointment in Omaha the following month. Since their fateful conversation, Jelinek has called Cox several times to check in on her condition.

“If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have had the help I did,” Cox said to Live Well Nebraska. “I’m very grateful for her. She could have hung up, but she realized there was something wrong, and she took charge of it.”

Jelinek is happy she was on the phone with Cox when the emergency occurred.

“I hope someone would do the same for me. You really need to pay attention. Our patients are our number one priority,” Jelinek said. “She is the most delightful person.”