While taking a shower after yard work on a muggy summer July 1, 2017, Hobb san Gary Jones suffered a massive heart attack.
More than a year later, last week, he met Paul Kroh, the dispatcher who responded to his 911 call, while prepar ing to speak with all of Lea County’s emergency dispatchers.
Jones, owner of Basin Surveys, has spent the past few weeks talking with groups of emergency service technicians and dispatchers to provide them person al information about his new heart assis tance device.
“I appreciate him coming to share his story with the dispatchers,” Lea Coun ty Communications Authority Director Angela Martinez said. “I know it got emotional for the dispatchers. The fact that he gets to meet Paul is awesome because we never get to talk to them or know what happens to a patient after they hang up.”
Recognizing what was happening as he stood in the shower, Jones managed to step out, dry off a little, put on some shorts and open his front door as he continued to weaken before making the call.
Jones’ voice cracked a bit as he told the story, “I’m having a heart attack. I’m sitting there in my chair. A heart attack just kicks you right in the chest. You can’t move your arms, can’t breathe, can’t move your legs, basically can’t do anything. I was able to dial 911. Paul was the one that answered.”
Kroh’s professionalism and empathy impressed Jones.
“He just cut the conversation real short and said, ‘I can tell you’re having a hard time. I’m going to let you go. Hang in there. We’ll have somebody there shortly,’” said Jones who then passed out before the medics arrived.
“I woke up and they’d already hooked me up to the EKG, their procedure,” Jones said. “I heard one of the EMTs say this was real, we need to move, and they loaded me up and took me to the hospital. I had to be shocked (defibrillated) twice.”
On Wednesday, Kroh, who is an experienced dispatcher supervisor, told Jones with humility, “I was just doing my duty.”
Jones’ experiences over the past year brought new medical technology to light for Lea County’s first responders and proved the advantages of Lea Regional Medical Center’s cardiac catheterization laboratory.
Although rejecting the idea initially, Jones eventually succumbed to a Texas Tech University Hospital doctor’s advice to have a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted, a procedure completed in May after he began to feel much worse. He finally returned to Hobbs on July 1, exactly one year after his heart attack.
Martinez said she contacted the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) because the LCCA had no instruction card for LVAD patients. Based on information received during a 911 call, dispatchers use the information on the “card,” which is actually in a computer program, to determine how to respond to any situation.
The certifying agency for LCCA, APCO agreed to develop and distribute an LVAD card to all dispatcher agencies.
Mike Prudencio, Hobbs Fire Department’s EMS coordinator, said he appreciated Jones’ meetings with the EMTs.
“We’re learning about LVAD because it’s getting more popular,” Prudencio said. “Now we are training on how to take care of an LVAD patient because its a whole different spectrum of how to take care of an LVAD patient versus just a regular patient.”
“(Jones has) already had to call 911 once,” Martinez said. “He might need to do it again.”
Although Jones strongly praised the staff at University Hospital in Lubbock, he noted Lea Regional’s cath lab saved his life.
“It was a God thing. I was just a few blocks from Fire Station 3, so they got there quickly,” he said. “The hospital had, just shortly before then, put in the cardio care unit. Dr. (Chip) Uricchio was on call that night. He put the stints in my heart, opened up my veins a little bit. Prior to them opening the (cath lab), they would have had to fly me to Lubbock that night. Well, it was horrible weather and every doctor that looked at me said I never would have made it.”
The cath lab was installed and opened in February 2017.