Police dispatchers are the first line of contact between those in need of help, and assistance arriving at the scene of an incident. They never know what kind of phone calls they’ll field on a given day.
Fender bender traffic collisions are one thing, but life or death situations require decision-making with little room for error. When put to the test, dispatcher Tennie “Tee” Roberts was up to the task.
Tennie Roberts took a call in November 2017 from a Tennessee police dispatch center.
Roberts had only learned the Medical Priority Dispatch System at the Grainger County E-911 in Rutledge, Tennessee, a week earlier. But when she fielded a call from Heather Watson, her training was put to the test.
Watson was a new mother in distress because her newborn had suddenly become unresponsive.
Watson’s then 4-week-old son Dallas was happy and alert while he was in his swing. The mom stepped out of the room for a moment—when she returned, he wasn’t breathing and was turning blue.
“All I could think about was I cherish being a mother so much and is this opportunity and privilege going to be taken away from me,” Watson said to ABC News.
The panicked mother dialed 911 as fast as she could, and Roberts picked up on the other line.
Roberts assisted Watson in clearing Dallas’ mouth and performing CPR.
For a few moments, Watson saw her baby’s life slipping away before her eyes. But as she followed the instructions Roberts dictated over the phone, a miracle happened. Allie Mathis, another dispatcher, also assisted.
“Shortly after, the baby began to cry,” Grainger County 911 said in a news release obtained by WVLT. “Roberts stayed on the phone with Watson to reassure her that help was on the way.”
Once the baby was breathing and the color returned to his face, he was rushed to the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, then transferred to the Vanderbilt hospital.
Doctors said the dispatcher’s actions saved the baby’s life. Watson was overwhelmed with gratitude for Roberts’ assistance, and five months after the incident, the two met in person.
Watson took her now 7-month-old baby to meet the dispatcher that saved his life.
On April 12, Watson got to meet the woman who was on the other side of the phone. It was an emotional reunion for both of them, with Watson fighting back tears as they embraced.
“I was overwhelmed,” Roberts said to ABC News. “It was amazing. Such a blessing to see them, and he smiled at me like he knew me.”
Watson said she wanted Roberts to know how much of an impact the experience left on her.
“I wanted to let her know her hard work and dedication doesn’t go unnoticed,” Watson said. “She was the calm in my storm.”