Arlington County paramedics yesterday credited the calm and clear advice of a police dispatcher with saving the life of a 3-year-old child who was discovered unconscious in his bed late Tuesday night.
"How could I ever be more thankful than having my son's life," said Timothy Coe, praising the actions of Arlington dispatcher G.V. (Cookie) Walport. "She calmed us down.
"She told us to turn the baby over face down on my arm, and to hold his tongue down and slap him on the back," Coe said.
Those actions helped Coe and his wife Elena revive their son Douglas, who was listed in fair condition yesterday at the hospital undergoing tests.
The couple said they discovered Douglas, their eldest child, lying breathless with his green eyes wide open at 11:30 p.m. Fearing that the child was dead, Coe said he frantically tried to pump the baby's stomach while his wife dialed the 911 emergency number. Within seconds they were talking to Walport.
"I was probably as scared as they were," said Walport, 42, who has been a dispatcher for two years. Unlike many dispatchers in the Washington area, Walport has emergency medical training, stemming from a previous job as an Arlington County deputy sheriff.
"You wouldn't believe how relieved I feel today," said Elena Coe, 25, at the bedside of her son. "He's alive. He's smiling . . . I was so very scared last night."
Because Douglas is speaking both of the languages he knows, English and Spanish, the Coes say they are hopeful that Walport's quick advice saved the child from brain damage. An emergency room physician said yesterday the brain can be damaged if it is denied oxygen for as little as four minutes. An ambulance arrived at the Coe home, in the 2200 block of N. 24th Street, four minutes after the 911 call was taken, and Douglas had just restored breathing, said Scott R. Erbele, an Arlington Fire Department spokesman.
"I feel that the Lord has miraculous guidance in our life," said Timothy Coe, a full-time organizer for the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual Washington event attended by members of Congress.
The evening Douglas became inexplicably ill, Coe said, he and his wife had been out to see a movie. "But it wasn't any good so we left in the middle of it," he said. "Then we went to a restaurant, but it was closed. We went to another restaurant, but it was closed, and so I said, 'Let's go home.' "
Coe said that as soon as he walked into his son's bedroom to kiss him good night, he realized the child was ill. Coe's sister Alden had been baby sitting for the couple's three young children, but she was downstairs and had not heard stirring upstairs, he said.
Alexandria emergency communications technicians are now being trained in emergency medical techniques, said Lt. Harry O. Lane, chief of Alexandria's public safety communications division. In the District and Alexandria and in Arlington, Montgomery and Fairfax counties, police spokesmen said fire dispatchers are required to complete emergency medical training, but police dispatchers are not.
"Everybody's happy," Erbele said of the rescue. "It's the kind of thing that makes you feel good -- saving a life over the telephone."