Calling for help can be a nightmare when someone’s suffering from a stroke or some other medical emergency. The person may have trouble using the phone or asking for help once they’re connected to the proper authorities. These issues can delay care when the person needs it most.
Skip Kritcher knew something was wrong when he tried calling for help from his home in Oregon. Instead of calling the local authorities, he accidentally called his friend Bill Scott, who lives over 500 miles away in California. Luckily, Bill and his wife, Sharon Scott, a retired nurse of 60 years, recognized that he needed medical care right away.
A Surprise Call
Bill Scott is a ham radio connoisseur and loves talking to his friends over the old-fashioned device.
“On Saturdays, I’ll hear check-ins from just about every part of the world,” he explained.
He’s been tinkering with ham radios for over 40 years and makes a note to carry one wherever he goes, including social functions, long walks with his wife, and on vacation.
But when Kritcher mistakenly called his friend on the radio, Bill Scott knew something was wrong.
“It was all kind of skewed and everything. I thought it was a prank call at first and so then after we finally established, he said, ‘You are an amateur radio operator,’ and I said, ‘Yeah’, then it all started coming together,” explained Scott.
Sharon Scott, who was listening in on the call, quickly realized Kritcher was having a stroke.
“The speech that he had was slurred, and my husband couldn’t seem to keep him on task,” she said.
The call dropped off suddenly, so Scott called 9-1-1 and directed the first responders to Kritcher’s house in Oregon.
“I was nervous because I didn’t want to lose my friend,” Bill Scott said.
The couple’s quick thinking saved Kritcher’s life. First responders quickly arrived on the scene to take him to a hospital. Officials say he has lost some of his vision, and remains in recovery.
It’s not clear what would’ve happened if Kritcher didn’t call his friend in California by mistake.
“Just a miracle that he called the wrong number and got us,” Sharon Scott said. “She [the 9-1-1 operator] said that the EMT told her that he would’ve died within a couple of hours.”
Now that Kritcher is in recovery, he remembers what was going through his head when he tried to call for help.
“I couldn’t see the numbers too good on the cell phone and I wound up pushing the button and calling Bill,” explained Kritcher.
He’s so grateful to know people like the Scotts. “It’s pretty awesome, they are great people you know. I’m just glad I called them,” Kritcher said.
While he’s still in the hospital, Kritcher says he likes to talk to Bill over the radio as much as he can.
Sharon Scott may be retired, but she’s still saving lives over 500 miles away from where she lives. The next time you receive a strange phone call, it might be someone asking for help.
9-1-1 technology has come a long way in recent years. Today, around 80% of emergency calls are made on wireless devices. This lets the operator see the person’s location in real-time, so they can send help even if the call ends abruptly.
The country’s 9-1-1 system is in the process of upgrading to what’s known as Next Generation 911, which would let operators communicate with individuals using photos, videos, and text messages. It’s all about helping first responders reach patients as quickly as possible.