The call nobody ever wants to get, but what might help

On A Personal Note/By Maramis

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.

I was having a cup of tea at my daughter’s house when her phone rang. The caller was by this time a family friend… someone who often worked with her husband on the jobs he did. My daughter had become good friends with his wife, who passed away away about a month ago.
It was hard not to hear the gasping in his voice as he tried to speak. “I can’t breathe,” he said. My daughter told him to have someone there call 911. He gasped that he was alone. She said she’d do it, but she needed his address. It was all he could do to get the number of his street out. She told him we’d be right over as soon as she called 911.
She looked up how to find his house on Google, then we jumped in the car, and off we went. It took about 20 minutes for us to get there, and along the way, the paramedics called my daughter to confirm his street number, which had been given correctly.
When we got there, we found the paramedics standing around outside, and no sign of our friend. When we asked why they weren’t inside with him, they told us something that we thought was very strange. First, what they said was an ordinary thing, “The door is locked,” which we didn’t find strange at all. But then they told us that they could not enter. We then banged on the door as loud as we could and called out his name. We knew he was likely unconscious. And the drapes on the living room window obscured our view of what might be going on inside.
This was an emergency situation and time was of the essence. My daughter asked the logical question, “Why didn’t you break in?”
Their response was that they could not, without someone from the sheriff’s department being there. But no one had called over for that to happen. We started to look for another door that might be open and found them all locked tight. Then my daughter told them if they wouldn’t break in, she would. So she picked up a heavy object on the porch and broke the window. Immediately, we could see our friend lying on the floor and told them to look in. Surely now it was even more of an emergency. Still, they wouldn’t and didn’t climb in the now broken
window. (It was, as one of them said, because they were afraid there might be a dog in there.)
Now, I understand that it is a very real possibility that a dog could be inside, especially since the nextdoor neighbor had come to see what was going on and told the paramedics that he had a dog, and the dog —
in trying to protect his human — might attack the paramedics.
So with our friend lying on the floor, and no one allowed in until they could break the door open, which was quite a project, we had to wait another several minutes. There was no sign of a dog and so now they went into action.
We heard one of the paramedics say, “He has a pulse!” They then applied a device for giving mechanical chest compressions while monitoring his blood pressure and whatever else they were doing. We were not allowed in the house because it was considered a possible crime scene. The sheriff’s deputy had shown up by this time and was taking notes. He asked questions of the three of us, and took our IDs to check them out.
So we now had the paramedics, the fire department, and the sheriff’s deputy there, as they were attempting to get their stretcher/gurney into the ambulance and it seemed to be stuck on some sort of an obstruction. They finally got it over that obstruction and continued to work on him with the mechanical chest compressions device. Of course, they would not, according to “the rules,” tell us anything about him because we were not family.
The deputy, who asked us to wait awhile, stayed behind to guard the scene until a detective could show up. Again, we were told that no one could go in. There was no sense following the ambulance to Desert View
Hospital since we would not only not be allowed in, but they would not tell us anything, not being family members.
Shortly before my daughter got the call that required us to run over to the home of the man who was gasping for breath, my daughter’s husband had been called to rescue another family friend who was on his way home to Amargosa, so he did not know about his other friend’s misfortune. The friend he was rescuing had gotten a flat tire, with a car full of groceries and his dog in the car, as well. It was getting dark and this friend did not have a flashlight nor any water for his dog, so my daughter sent those items with her husband when he went out to rescue that friend. After he changed the tire, and the friend was on his way home again, he had a blowout of another tire.
My daughter’s husband had, in the meantime, been informed of his other friend’s situation, and came to meet up with us at the nearest gas station. We all knew that the one with the two bad tires had to be rescued and brought home to our house, so they switched vehicles, since it would be easier for the older dog to climb into her vehicle than into her husband’s truck.
So off we went, she and I back home, and her husband out to rescue a man, a dog, and his groceries, and to see that his vehicle was off the road enough to be safe for leaving it there overnight.
When they finally arrived back here, the dog was hungry, having missed dinner, the man was also hungry and still exhausted from trying to replace the first flat tire, and worried about the whole situation. My daughter had already prepared dinner for the dog, and two big sandwiches for the men. She also got the couch ready for our now overnight guest. So all was well enough with that emergency, but unfortunately, the medics did not get to our other friend in time. He didn’t make it.
Well, no one had a good night’s sleep, and none of us knew the name or phone number of his son, so we could not notify him. But what we learned from this misadventure was that if there is any chance the door will be locked (the person in need of help is unable to unlock the door), and the person might not be able to respond to phone calls or banging on the door, be sure to tell 911 of that situation so they can send out a sheriff’s deputy at the same time in case they need to break in. That is the only way they will do that. And the time you save may end up saving a life.
* * * * *
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at

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