MORRISTOWN, NJ – When Roxbury Fire Department First Assistant Chief Kirk Keyes, who works as an emergency services dispatcher for Morris County, answered the phone on Jan. 30, he found himself with a dad-to-be in a tizzy.
The man from Chatham needed somebody there quickly; His wife was about deliver a baby.
Keyes put out the call and then stayed on the phone to help turn the man's panic into joy.
“Keyes began providing emergency childbirth pre-arrival instructions to the husband and, during questioning of the father, learned that the baby was on its way,” said county spokesman Larry Ragonese.
He said Keyes provided instructions on how to support the baby and he stayed on the phone throughout the birth. “The successful joint delivery effort resulted in the birth of a healthy baby boy,” said Ragonese, noting Keyes “continued to provide instructions to the father and mother to ensure the baby was not in any distress until police officers arrived at the house.”
Keyes received a Medical Assistance Award for his actions. He was one of six county dispatchers honored for their efforts by the freeholders at an event on Wednesday.
“These men and women were faced with very difficult situations, in some cases dealing with life and death,” said Morris County Freeholder Director Doug Cabana, referring to Keyes and his colleagues. “They were able to provide valuable information in tense situations that saved lives and brought new county residents into our world.’’
Also awarded at the ceremony were emergency dispatchers William O’Connor, Kyle Hoffman, Peter Dwyer, Ashley Napolitano and Fred Sharp.
“These fine telecommunicators did more than just provide the tools to help people in distress. They offered a calming influence – in effect holding a hand to those in distress – to help get them through their ordeals. They are to be commended,’’ said Michael Peoples, director of the communications division of the Morris County Department of Law and Public Safety.
The county gave a medical assistance award to dispatcher William O'Connor for helping a baby be delivered during the Jan. 22, 2016 blizzard. At 11:45 p.m., "during the height of a blizzard," O’Connor received an emergency call from a father in Morris Township whose wife was in labor, said Ragonse.
"O’Connor promptly began to provide emergency medical childbirth instructions to the father over the phone," he said. "Within seconds, the baby was born -- prior to the arrival of first responders."
O’Connor stayed on the phone with the father "ensuring that the baby was breathing and offered reassurance to the father and mother until emergency medical personnel arrived," Ragonese said.
Telecommunicator Kyle Hoffman was awarded for providing lifesaving instructions over the phone on April 10, 2016. Hoffman received a call about a man who had collapsed at Fosterfields Living Historical Park in Morris Township, Ragonese said.
"The caller, a Morris County Park Commission employee who demonstrated incredible calm given the situation, carefully listened to PST Hoffman provide CPR instructions over the phone," he said. "The caller provided an estimated 600 chest compressions at the instruction of PST Hoffman, keeping him alive until first responders from the Morris County Park Police, Morris Township Police, the Morris Minutemen EMS squad and the Morristown Medical Center arrived. The victim survived thanks to these efforts."
Hoffman received the Morris County Communications Division Lifesaving Award.
A similar situation confronted dispatcher Peter Dwyer on June 21, 2016, according to the county. Dwyer was called by a Mendham woman who said her husband collapse and wasn't breathing, Ragonese said.
"The caller was having a difficult time providing her exact location," he said. "Dwyer was able to calm the caller, offer reassurance,and determine the location of the call. Dwyer began to provide CPR instructions to the caller over the phone."
Ragonese noted Dwyer, several times, had to calm the woman "so she could focus on understanding the CPR instructions." He said the caller performed chest compressions and continued to do so "at the urging of" Dwyer until police officers arrived about two minutes later. The man was revived with a defibrillator.
Dwyer received the Morris County Communications Division Lifesaving Award.
Another case involving a childbirth came the way of dispatcher Ashley Napolitano on Jan. 5, said the county.
She "began to provide emergency childbirth pre-arrival information but learned that the mother was not in the correct position to give a safe delivery," Ragonese said, adding "Napolitano directed the husband to prepare his wife for a safe delivery and to ensure that the mother was not in any life-threatening distress."
Napolitano continued to ask the husband if he saw any part of the child and the father said he saw the head, Ragonese said. "Napolitano then provided instructions to the father on how to support the baby as it was exiting the womb," at which time emergency first-responder medical services arrived.
"A short time later, a baby girl was born" to the Morris Township couple. Napolitano received the Morris County Communications Division’s Medical Assistance Award.
On Feb. 3, county dispatcher Fred Sharp fielded a call from a person in Morristown who said an 8-month-old baby was not breathing, Ragonese said. "Sharp quickly determined that the baby was, in fact, not breathing and was turning blue," he said. "Sharp instructed the caller, who relayed the instructions to the mother of the baby, to clear the airway of the baby and provide rescue breathing. Within moments, the baby coughed and expelled fluid and began to breathe and cry, signaling a cleared airway. Sharp remained on the call until police officers arrived to continue care of the baby boy."
Sharp has received the Morris County Communications Division’s Lifesaving Award for his actions.