Monday, January 2, 2006
Steamboat Springs Nine-year-old Lena Barker was able to save her brother's life because she had two pieces of information: She knew how to dial 911 and she knew her address.
It was two days before Christmas, and minutes before, Lena had been playing in the snow with her brother, 11-year-old Jake Barker, and a friend, Lesley Wilson, 9.
Jake had made a little ski jump for himself and was going off it with his skis. He is a trained ski jumper who has landed the K90 on Howelsen Hill. No one was worried about his ability to make the jump until he landed face first in the snow.
He was buried to his waist in snow. He couldn't move his arms. He couldn't get out of the snow, and he was running out of air.
"I was really scared when I saw my brother stuck headfirst in the snow," Lena said. "(Lesley) said right away, 'I'm going to get your mom.'
"Then I tried to dig him out. When my mom got to where Jake was stuck, she told me to call 911."
Before she left her brother's side, Lena saw his belly. He had stopped breathing.
She ran into the house and called 911.
Dispatch supervisor and 911 coordinator Sharon Clever remembers the call vividly.
The call was taken by dispatcher Leslie Hockaday.
"(Lena) did awesome," Clever said. "This little girl told us that her brother was stuck, and she knew her address, and she remained calm."
Clever advises parents to teach their children how to dial 911. Parents can unplug the phone and have their children practice.
The first thing children need to know is their addresses.
"If the parents can have it posted near the phone, that would be wonderful," Clever said. "Then we ask them questions like their phone number and what's going on. If they can be clear and concise, it helps us. If it's an ambulance call, we'll give them instructions of what to do with the injured person.
"The other thing is for the child to remain calm, but I have to say kids usually remain more calm than adults do."
While Lena was on the phone, her mother, Jill Barker, was able to dig Jake out of the snow and revive him.
"It was like he was in concrete," Barker said. "I was able to get him out probably because I'm his mom and I was desperate."
The ambulance arrived and took Jake to Yampa Valley Medical Center. He was spared brain damage or physical trauma.
With relief in her voice, Barker gives parents this advice:
"It was really scary, but the girls were able to do it because they had some background," she said. "So many parents send their kids out to play and have no plan of action if something happens.
"Make sure they know their address and how to call 911. The older child of the siblings usually knows what to do and the younger one doesn't." In Jake and Lena's situation, it was the younger sibling who had to know what to do.
"I'm so thankful my sister and Lesley were able to handle the situation so well," Jake said. "It's thanks to them that I'm alive."
-- To reach Autumn Phillips, call 871-4210 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org