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Worker's ‘intuition’ helped save woman’s life

Alarm company employee sent ambulance despite refusal

POSTED: May 8, 2011 11:31 p.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Josh Fitzpatrick, with Electronic Sales Co., got a call from a woman in trouble who decided she didn't need an ambulance. Fitzpatrick went ahead and sent an ambulance and it saved the woman's life.

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When Josh Fitzpatrick is on-call, he doesn’t expect to be saving any lives.

Fitzpatrick has worked for the Electronic Sales Co. for 14 years. In addition to overseeing the installation of security equipment, every other week he handles calls during off-hours. If his phone rings in the evening or on the weekend, it’s usually a panicked customer who has accidentally activated his or her burglar alarm.

But on March 1, Fitzpatrick answered a different sort of call.

Fitzpatrick was asleep at his Gainesville home when the phone he keeps close beside his bed rang at 4:03 a.m. It was the Central Monitoring Station, saying a woman on the line needed help disarming her alarm.

The operator put her through, and the woman was speaking very low, whispering.

“I had to turn the volume up all the way on my phone to hear what she was saying,” Fitzpatrick said.

The woman was not feeling well. She was going to call an ambulance but couldn’t get up to disarm her alarm. She didn’t want it to go off when the paramedics entered.

“I could tell she was not feeling good,” Fitzpatrick said. “She was weak. I did not like the way she sounded.”

Fitzpatrick told the caller he could not turn the alarm off remotely but offered to walk the paramedics through the disarming. He asked her if a friend or neighbor had a spare key that could be used to unlock the door.

Not having a spare key and not wanting her door broken down, the woman told Fitzpatrick she would call an ambulance in the morning and abruptly hung up.

Fitzpatrick just couldn’t let it go.

“You never really know what a person’s going through when you’re talking to them on the phone,” he said. “There were a lot of bells ringing in my head when she said that she’d wait until the morning.”

Not knowing her phone number, location or even her name, Fitzpatrick called back the operator at the Central Monitoring Station. The operator agreed to contact a dispatch service to try and convince the woman to let paramedics come to her house, which was in the Winder area.

A few minutes later, Fitzpatrick called Winder’s 911 center and asked if someone had gotten through to the woman. They said a medic was with her.

Despite knowing the woman was getting help, Fitzpatrick was unable to go back to sleep. He had learned her name and it sounded familiar.

In the morning he called Jackie Cooley, vice president of Electronic Sales Co., and told her what had happened. Cooley recognized the caller as the fiance of a former employee, one who had died within the past year.

Cooley attempted to locate the caller at area hospitals.

“It took me hours — I couldn’t find her,” Cooley said.

She finally found the woman at Athens Regional, but the woman was unable to come to the phone. She was ill with pneumonia.

“She was just very, very sick,” Cooley said.

Counte Cooley, owner and president of Electronic Sales Co., praised Fitzpatrick for following his intuition and taking that extra step to help a customer.

“I am sure that had Josh not picked up the phone and done what he did, she would have been dead that morning,” Cooley said.

The woman spent more than a week in the hospital. Though she was eventually able to come home, the woman died a few weeks later.

The day of the call, Fitzpatrick was relieved she had made it to the hospital. But he said he didn’t realize just how sick the woman was.

“I didn’t know the enormity of the situation until she died,” he said.

More than burglar alarms, Electronic Sales Co.’s units can monitor carbon monoxide levels, as well as detect whether there’s a fire or water damage to a building. Being in the life-saving business, Cooley and his wife said the company encourages employees to go the extra mile when it comes to assisting customers.

“Josh is one apple in a basket full of good-apple people,” Counte Cooley said. “He fulfilled the culture of the company, which is to serve.”



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