Dispatcher hails Hagerstown boy's heroism

Youngster who dialed 911 when mother fell down stairs was calm during emergency

Youngster who dialed 911 when mother fell down stairs was calm during emergency

April 02, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- An 8-year-old Hagerstown boy did such a good job of calling 911 when his mother fell down the stairs last week that emergency services staff invited him to meet the dispatcher who took his call.

"You did an excellent job," emergency communications specialist Kevin Willis told Tanner Shoemaker after the staff presented him with an emergency services T-shirt and a "special hero" certificate Tuesday.

Tanner was at home with his parents March 24 when his mother, Cindy Shoemaker, fainted at the top of the stairs and tumbled down 13 steps, hitting her head at the bottom.

"I remember waking up, and (my husband) was holding my head, and my son was calling 911," Cindy said.

Tanner's father, Michael Shoemaker, said Tanner made the call without any prompting, and answered the dispatcher's questions himself, checking with his dad only once to find out if the dogs were put away.


Tanner was able to tell Willis his address and phone number, his mother's age, that she had fallen down 13 steps and that she was acting confused. When Willis asked why she fell, Tanner said he didn't know, but added that his mother had two strokes before.

Cindy said the fall was caused by a condition called transient global amnesia, which causes her to lose track of time and lose pieces of her memory.

When dispatchers played a recording of the call Tuesday, Tanner's parents said they were impressed with his calmness and maturity.

"I was kind of shocked that he knew what unconscious meant," Cindy said.

Emergency services staff said children actually tend to be more calm than adults when calling 911.

"I think as adults, we kind of get scared and always think the worst," said Jennifer Swisher, assistant chief at the Washington County Division of Fire and Emergency Services. "A child is so innocent, they're able to relay the information a little better."

Tanner said he had never called 911 before, but he learned what to do from his father and from lessons at Children's Village, the county's safety education center.

Cindy, who sprained her neck in the accident, was treated in the emergency room and sent home with instructions to stay downstairs as much as possible.

She said it's nice to know that Tanner would know what to do if another emergency situation arose.

"It's reassuring having him home with me," she said. "He's always saying, 'Are you dizzy?' or 'Are you OK?' He protects me all the time."

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