911 dispatcher talks man through CPR that saves father's life

The Fla. dispatcher instructed a 29-year-old on how to perform chest compressions when his father suffered a seizure and stopped breathing

By Geoff Fox
Tampa Tribune

DADE CITY, Fla. — A Dade City man who had a seizure before he stopped breathing early Saturday is alive today, thanks to the efforts of a Pasco County 911 call taker and the man’s 29-year-old son, who performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, authorities said.

Lauren Bertke, a public safety communications officer in Pasco’s 911 Communications Center for two years, took the call from Vince Hogan of Dade City at 12:48 a.m. Saturday, records show. Hogan’s father, Mercer Hogan, 58, was having a seizure when the call was made.

“He’s turning blue and he needs oxygen,” Vince Hogan told Bertke, according to the 911 call released by the county. “He’s trying to get air.”

As CPR was necessary, Bertke instructed Hogan to lay his father flat on his back — after the room was cleared of frantic loved ones.

In a calm, firm voice, she explained the steps of chest compressions — “Place the heel of your hand on his chest bone, right between the nipples” — and counted off as Hogan followed her instructions.

“You’re doing a good job,” she said. “Keep pumping on his chest, hard and fast: One, two, three, four.”

A little more than eight minutes after the 911 call was initiated, paramedics arrived and took over, records show.

Mercer Hogan has a history of cardiac issues and suffered a heart attack during the incident, Vince Hogan said Tuesday. Mercer Hogan was being treated at a local hospital Tuesday and was showing signs of recovery, his son said.

“He’s doing pretty good now,” Vince Hogan said. “He had some brain swelling, but that’s subsided. He spoke yesterday and started to come to. He’s a little confused, but we’re very blessed.”

Vince Hogan said he had not performed CPR since taking a course in high school.

“I didn’t have any option but to stay focused on my dad,” he said. “Deep down, it was really traumatic, but I had to do the best I could.”

Lt. Dan Olds, assistant director of Pasco’s Public Safety Communications, said the recorded call could be used as a training tool for new hires.

“(Bertke) followed all the protocols,” Olds said. “She kept very calm.”

Public Safety Communications records showed that the call was one of a dozen last week in which a county 911 call taker instructed a caller on CPR. The number of such calls varies by day, emergency workers said.

Bertke later said she has emergency services “in my blood.”

Her father is a retired Nassau County, N.Y., police officer and firefighter, her uncle was a firefighter in New York and her husband, Eric Bertke, has been a Pasco firefighter for about seven years, she said.


©2015 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.)

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