DIGGING DEEPER: Verona woman's story highlights proposal to requ - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

DIGGING DEEPER: Verona woman's story highlights proposal to require CPR training for dispatchers

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VERONA (WKOW) -- Minutes matter in a cardiac incident and experts say the state is not doing enough to make sure people can get the help they need.

Lawmakers are working on a new proposal to require all dispatchers be trained in CPR. Someone in cardiac arrest can die in just five minutes and depending on where you live, if you call 911 for help, a dispatcher may only be able to send for someone.

"It can take easily 10-15 min for the ambulance to arrive. Some of those areas do not have dispatcher training, so there's almost very little hope for a cardiac arrest victim to be able to survive," says Ann Dodge, advocacy committee chair with American Heart Association. 

AHA estimates only half or two-thirds of Wisconsin's dispatchers are taught how to talk someone through the steps of CPR. 

Dane County is one of roughly two dozen agencies certified in Emergency Medical Dispatch, giving dispatchers specific questions to ask callers to determine their medical condition, including cardiac arrest. 

Susan Watters says she's lucky she lived in Verona when she went into cardiac arrest in 2011. 

"I remember just standing here with my son and that's it," Susan says. "Then I woke up and I'm in a hospital room with machines around me and tubes and it was surreal."

Her son Ben called 911 and Dane County dispatcher Marlis Lambson walked him through CPR, saving her life in their kitchen.

"My stress level definitely jumped when I found out she was in cardiac arrest, but the dispatcher did a great job of keeping me under control and keeping me calm," Ben tells 27 News.

Lambson says the incident inspired her to become a CPR instructor to train other dispatchers. She says they're armed with clear steps to know what to do and explain it to a caller. 

"Our protocols give us exact wording to use, which is always helpful, especially if you don't have any police, fire or EMS background," Lambson tells 27 News. "Even if you do have that background, it's still really helpful, but it's really easy to tell somebody, OK I'm going to tell you how to do chest compressions."

Most counties in southern Wisconsin do require dispatchers learn CPR, but at least half a dozen agencies tell 27 News it's not part of training. For example, Green County dispatchers transfer 911 medical calls to a local hospital nurse, who would handle any CPR instructions if needed. Police departments with 911 centers, like Sun Prairie and Monona, transfer medical calls to Dane County. Grant and Adams counties send ambulances but do not do medical dispatching.

That's why AHA advocates have convinced State Rep. Treig Pronschinske, from northern Wisconsin, to write a bill that would require CPR training for every dispatcher in Wisconsin. 

Pronschinske's office tells 27 News it would give 911 centers two options: they could train their dispatchers in CPR or transfer callers to a partner 911 center that can provide CPR instructions. Continuing education and quality improvement would also be included in the bill, along with funding to help 911 centers pay for training. 

It's an issue close to Ann Dodge's heart, because her cousin is Susan Watters. 

"I don't know what I would do in my life without Susan," says Dodge. "If she had been in a different location, there's a chance the dispatchers might not have been able to help her son do CPR."

And Watters, given a second chance at life, now want sto share her story to show lawmakers how a trained dispatcher and a team of responders saved her life. 

"I just am grateful for those people out there that save lives and my son for being there at the right time," she says.

The proposal is still being drafted right now before it can be circulated for other state lawmakers to sponsor. 

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