Sandra Goldman pulled over on the highway, looked at her 8-year-old daughter, closed her eyes and passed out.
“That’s when I picked up the cell phone and dialed 911,” young Desiree Goldman of El Rio said as she waited in the Santa Paula Hospital emergency room Thursday morning.
“I always watch 911 shows,” the El Rio School third-grader said. “I was scared she was going to die and I just didn’t want her to.” Had it been 1977--even 1987--Desiree might have had to flag down cars on the dangerous Highway 126 roadside as crucial minutes ticked away.
But this is the age of the cell phone, which her mother had taught her how to use just a few days ago.
Within minutes of Desiree’s call, highway patrol dispatchers and emergency crews found Desiree and her mother just west of Briggs Road near Santa Paula.
Sandra Goldman was rushed to the hospital. Although her ailments were not made public, hospital officials said they expected her to recover.
About five hours after Desiree’s call, Sandra Goldman continued to undergo treatment in the emergency room and remained in satisfactory condition, a nursing supervisor said.
As she stood in the waiting room, Lisa Jaramillo of El Rio, the girl’s paternal grandmother, said her daughter-in-law was depressed in recent days. She said Desiree called her several times Wednesday, worried because her mother kept throwing up.
Not knowing that Sandra was bringing Desiree back to the girl’s father in El Rio on Thursday morning, Jaramillo decided to drive to Santa Paula to be sure Sandra was OK. She was about a half mile from where the Goldmans’ car stopped on Highway 126 when she saw the flashing emergency lights.
“Oh my God, don’t let it be Sandra,” she recalled thinking, “but sure enough, it was.”
“I’m just very proud of her,” Jaramillo said of her granddaughter. “For Desiree to react the way she did, it’s a miracle. It took a lot of quick thinking for a little girl.”
Claude Ball, the CHP dispatcher who took Desiree’s call, agreed, commending the youngster for her quick thinking and her ability to lead emergency crews to the car.
“She was obviously a little scared, but she kept talking and was able to tell me enough about where she thought she was,” Ball said.
Desiree also was able to tell the dispatcher that she was in a white Mitsubishi that had just passed Peck Road before stopping.
Ball said firefighters, police, paramedics and highway officers were sent out and found the car within 11 minutes.
“I think kids are real savvy to the technology around them,” said Karen Portlock, a Sheriff’s Department employee who serves as the 911 coordinator for all Ventura County law enforcement agencies. “It’s just second nature to them. When I was that age, I was playing with paper dolls and playing Indian ball in the street. A telephone without a wire? That was the last thing on my mind.”
Hoping to educate more children about 911 emergency calls, Portlock said county officials are evaluating how to implement a “911 for Kids” school program developed by state emergency officials and a handful of telecommunication companies. The program is partially funded with phone bill tax proceeds, Portlock said.