Children Reap Reward Of Life For Learning To Use 911

September 15, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

When 3-year-old Drew Ferandes pulled his father's hair and got no response, he yelled to his sister for help.

His sister, Nicole, realized her father "didn't feel right," so she went to the phone, climbed on a chair and punched 9-1-1 on a keypad on which the numbers were faded.

Nicole, 5, and Drew were rewarded for their efforts Wednesday which helped save their father's life.

Nicole and Drew were honored by county administrators for getting medical help for their father, Gary Ferandes, when he lapsed into a diabetic coma at their Forest Hillhome last May.

The Ferandes children aren't the only Harford kidswho know how to use 911 to hail emergency help. The county's centraldispatch center in Hickory occasionally gets emergency calls from children, said Capt. W. Mitchell Vocke, an administrator at the center.

The center received 42,669 emergency calls last year, Vocke said.He could not give an estimate of how many of those calls came from children, but he says they are considered fairly routine.

As an uncanny example, just as administrators were leaving for a ceremony at North Bend Elementary School in Jarrettsville to present Nicole and Drew with awards, an emergency operator received a call from a 5-year-old Havre de Grace boy reporting that he could not awaken his father. The operator dispatched an ambulance crew.

As it turned out, therewas nothing medically wrong with the man: He is a heavy sleeper and the boy got worried when he wouldn't wake up, Vocke said.

"It was a good intent call," Vocke said. "It was an effort to use the system the way it was meant to be used."

Administrators at the communications center hope to educate more children on how and when to use 911 by using Nicole and Drew as examples of young children who used the system correctly. About 500 children attended the presentation honoring Nicole and Drew on Wednesday -- "911 Emergency Number Day" in Maryland. Throughout the year, Vocke said, the county makes presentations to school children to teach them how to reach help in cases of fire, police and medical emergencies.

As for Nicole, she said she learned how to get help in an emergency by watching her favorite televisionshow, "Rescue 911." So, the kindergartner knew what to do when her father suffered a diabetic attack May 26.

"I knew he didn't feel right," Nicole said. "That's how I knew to call 911."

Gary Ferandes,a diabetic for eight years, recalls he was watching television with son Drew after a long day of yardwork in 90-degree-plus weather on a Saturday evening.

At the time, his wife, Vicki, was shopping. Nicole was bathing.

Drew asked his father a question, but he didn't answer. The boy went to his father and tried to awaken him. He even pulled his father's hair.

The youngster told Nicole their dad needed help.

His sister went to the family's telephone in the kitchen, stood up on a chair and pressed 911, even though the numbers on the phone dial had faded.

"Nicole gave her address and her name, and alsosaid 'My daddy can't breathe. He won't wake up,' " Vocke told the North Bend students. "Her dad is fine because Nicole knew what to do."

Once a volunteer ambulance crew reached the family's home, medicaltechnicians revived Ferandes with glucose. He was then taken to Fallston General Hospital, where he was held for observation and later released.

Ferandes, 31, explained that his diabetic attack occurred because he burned too many calories doing the yardwork in the heat. He said his system contained too much insulin and not enough sugar.

Ferandes added that he is proud and thankful of the quick thinking by Nicole and Drew.

"We'd go over what to do in emergency situations," said Ferandes, who works at Martin Marietta in Middle River. "Butbeing that young, you never know how they'll react in case of an emergency."

In addition to regularly watching the "Rescue 911" show, Ferandes said he and his wife have instructed their children on what to do in case of a fire, such as staying close to the floor to avoid smoke and feeling doors before opening them.

Ferandes added that he has explained to Nicole and Drew about diabetes, and what reactionshe might have depending on the amount of sugar and insulin in his system.

After receiving a gold 911 pin and a proclamation from county administrators at Wednesday's presentation, Nicole said she's just happy that she and Drew were able to help her father.

"You're looking at two young people who are heroes," County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann told the North Bend students. "They saved their dad's life."

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