After 10 years as a paramedic with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Capt. James Jeffries said he was seeking a quieter job when he became a dispatcher in May.
But Saturday, for the second time in two months, Jeffries helped saved the life of an unconscious child by giving directions for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation over the telephone to a distraught mother.
Jeffries, 38, calmly told Deborah Greenstine of Saugus how to revive her 20-month-old son, Michael, when she reached him via the 911 emergency number after pulling the toddler from the family spa.
The infant was in satisfactory condition Saturday night at Holy Cross Hospital in Mission Hills, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Two months ago, Jeffries, of Tehachapi, similarly instructed an Antelope Valley mother in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in a successful effort to revive her child, who had become unconscious after falling underwater in the family bathtub.
A tape of the conversation between Jeffries and Greenstine records the dramatic minutes after the panicked mother called at 1 p.m. and said in a barely audible voice, "My baby just fell in the pool; he's blue and he's not breathing!"
Jeffries immediately asked her if she knew mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. When Greenstine said, "Sort of . . . Vaguely," the dispatcher told her to "pinch the nose off, tip the head back . . . so you open the airways, and blow in the baby's mouth."
In the 125 seconds after he gave those first instructions, Jeffries, whose tone of voice did not waver throughout the conversation, alternated between repeating the direction to blow into the baby's mouth every three seconds and asking whether the baby's chest was rising when air was blown in.
Greenstine assured the dispatcher that she was following his instructions. She also sought to quiet her 2-year-old daughter, Lisa, whose sobs drowned out the conversation several times.
Finally, the mother, her voice still strained, said, "Yes, it's rising," referring to her son's chest. The infant then began crying and much of the strain left Greenstine's voice.
Warning About Choking
Jeffries told the mother to lay the baby on his side in case he vomited. He told her the vomit could choke the baby.
In the final minute before paramedics arrived--less than 4 minutes after the call began--Jeffries drew from Greenstine the baby's age, the temperature of the water in the spa and the length of time the toddler had been in the water.
Greenstine said that the water was unheated and that her son had been in it for "not more than 3 or 4 minutes at the most. I was getting his bottle."
The dispatcher told her, "You did a good job."
The tape ends with Greenstine telling her daughter, "Lisa, come here. Go open the door" as the paramedics arrived.
After listening to the recording, Jeffries said, "She's the one who saved the baby. She remained composed and got the job done under very difficult circumstances, with another child screaming into her ear.
"I'm not so sure I could be that composed with my own child."
Through a hospital spokeswoman, Greenstine and her husband Richard declined to be interviewed.
Jeffries said that in the previous case involving an unconscious infant, the revival effort was hampered because the mother "thought I should have been en route to help her, rather than talking to her on the phone," the dispatcher said.
With the 13-month-old 911 emergency system, the caller's address is printed on a screen so another dispatcher can send rescue units while the original dispatcher keeps the caller on the line, said county Fire Inspector Pat Bradshaw.
Working from a Fire Department communications center in Lancaster, Jeffries was one of three dispatchers Saturday fielding fire and paramedic calls from the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys and Malibu.