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LUCI WELDON/The Warren Record

Warren County 911 Telecommunicator Khadijah Thurman, second from left, holds flowers given to her by a Ridgeway family for her role in saving the life of a family member. Pictured, from the left, are Warren County 911 Coordinator Sheila Baskett, Thurman, 911 caller Terry Simpson and 911 Shift Supervisor Sanqueeshia Henderson.

It is too easy to take 911 telecommunicators for granted because they are at the ready every day to assist people when an emergency arises, but that is not the case for Ridgeway residents Terry Simpson and Marie McGuire. They think of Warren County 911 telecommunicator Khadijah Thurman as a hero for helping to save the life of McGuire’s son on March 2.

The Monday began as a usual day, and that afternoon, all three family members were at home. Simpson was in the living room watching television when he heard a noise. He thought that McGuire’s son, who asked that his name not be revealed, was outside working on the roof as he had done after work and on weekends for some time. Simpson assumed that the sound was related to the roofing work.

However, when he went into the kitchen a few minutes later, he found McGuire’s son, who is in his 40s, on the floor. He had stopped breathing and was turning blue. McGuire arrived in the kitchen. Seeing her son lying there, she began pushing on his chest in what she called “Mama instinct.” She yelled, “Call 911!” Simpson completed first aid training in the 1990s, but his mind went blank except for one thing: He called 911.

Thurman took the call and received information that McGuire’s son’s breathing was abnormal, he might have had a seizure and was turning blue. While a coworker dispatched paramedics to the scene, Thurman gave Simpson instructions about how to perform CPR chest compressions. Regular training and recertification made describing the steps second nature: lay the patient flat, place hands over the breastbone in a hand-over-hand position, and do standard counts while pumping the chest until paramedics arrive or the patient starts breathing.

“While we were talking, my training starts coming back,” Simpson recalled.  

When Warren County Emergency Medical Services arrived, he stepped out of the way to allow paramedics to do their jobs.

“After a few minutes, I told his mama he was breathing, to calm down, he was going to be OK,” Simpson said.

EMS took McGuire’s son to Maria Parham Health in Henderson, where he remained for three to four hours for observation before he was allowed to return home.

His diagnosis was a drug relapse overdose. After the health scare, he gave the drugs to his mother, instructing her to destroy them. He is seeking help and attending meetings.

McGuire is grateful for everyone and everything that helped her son, including the drug commonly known as Narcan, that is used to treat overdoses of opioid medications.

“Narcan and Ms. Thurman and Mr. Simpson saved his life,” she said.

The family called the 911 dispatch center after they returned home, this time on the non-emergency line, to thank Thurman, but she had completed her shift. They came in person the following day.

Warren County 911 Coordinator Sheila Baskett is grateful that the family let them know that everything turned out fine.

“Most of the time, we never know how our calls turn out,” she said. “We wonder, ‘Did they make it?’”

Sanqueeshia Henderson, 911 shift supervisor, said that Thurman did exactly what a telecommunicator should do when Simpson called.

“I’m proud of her. She stuck with protocol and her training. She gave instructions and saved the family,” Henderson said.

She noted that Baskett tells everyone at the 911 dispatch center to show compassion and care to callers as if the emergency were happening to one of their family members while remaining calm so they can gather the information that emergency responders need.

“We ask questions because they are necessary: the address, a description of what’s going on, the phone number, tell exactly that happened,” Henderson said.

Capt. John Branche of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office said that Thurman’s actions demonstrate how the 911 staff is prepared to assist the community in an emergency.

“The sheriff’s office is proud of Ms. Thurman,” he said. “What she has done is representative of the 911 center. Anyone there is prepared to do the same thing.”