Girl's 911 know-how saves mom's life, earns an award

Staff WriterJune 2, 2006 

  • Here is what you can do to help your children learn about 911:

    * Don't wait to tell children what 911 is and why people call. Children as young as 3 have been taught how, and when, to make 911 calls.

    * Teach children how to use every type of phone to which they are exposed. Cell phones work differently than house phones, and some homes still have rotary phones.

    * Once children know how to use a phone and understand when and why to call 911, put a phone where they can reach it.

    * Help children memorize the spelling of their names, their parents' names, the family's address and phone number.

    * Talk to children about how to take instructions from a 911 dispatcher, such as answering questions or unlocking a door for paramedics or police.

— NeAsia McCargo's mom, Alice, was taking a bath when her blood sugar plummeted. Mom wouldn't talk, couldn't move and refused to drink the soda her son and daughter kept offering her.

So NeAsia, 12, picked up the phone and called people who always know how to help -- 911 dispatchers. When dispatcher Rob Miller answered the fifth-grader's call, NeAsia told him that her diabetic mother was in trouble.

NeAsia's actions that April day saved her mother's life and won her the first Raleigh-Wake County "I Knew What To Do" award, which she will receive this morning at Durant Road Elementary School.

The Raleigh-Wake County Emergency Communications Center created the award in part to raise awareness about how children should be taught to give information to -- and take instructions from -- 911 dispatchers, said director Barry Furey.

"Parents should be aware that children as young as 3 have been taught to successfully make 911 calls," Furey said.

NeAsia's family taught her how to call 911 when she was 3. Because of her mom's illness, NeAsia calls 911 so often that several dispatchers recognize her name. In fact, NeAsia had to call 911 on Wednesday when her mother's blood sugar dropped and she wouldn't respond to questions.

"They said help is on the way, like they always do," NeAsia said.

Alice McCargo's diabetes is complicated. Her blood sugar level often drops dramatically without warning. She has to test her blood at least four times a day and takes insulin daily.

"It has a mind of its own," McCargo said of her lifelong illness. "Nobody knows when it's going to come up."

NeAsia is quick to respond when she notices her mom is mumbling or unresponsive. She usually coaxes her mother into drinking Pepsi out of a white plastic cup. But when Mom won't cooperate, NeAsia calls for paramedics who can be forceful.

"Sometimes I have to call 911," NeAsia said. "She doesn't want to drink any soda. She just wants to act up."

It doesn't take much to make NeAsia giggle or smile. She is worried about starting sixth grade in the fall, scared by the idea of new teachers and more homework. And she is quick to tell a visitor how busy traffic on her street can spoil bike riding or how there are not enough children nearby to play with.

She is also a child who reminds adults to "drive safely" and patiently explains how her family works together to help their mother.

Calling 911 is no longer frightening to NeAsia, but she admits that seeing her mom become ill is. Asked why, NeAsia said simply, "She's my mom, and I love her."

(News researcher Paulette Stiles contributed to this report.)

Staff writer Jennifer Brevorka can be reached at 829-4906 or jbrevork@newsobserver.com.

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