Fort Riley seven-year-old makes life-saving 911 call
May 11, 2009
By Parker Rome
FORT RILEY, Kan. - Something didn't feel right when Samantha Chavez was trying to go to sleep. It didn't take her long to realize that was something wrong with her grandmother, who was lying next to her.
"I was trying to go to sleep, but then Nana started moving funny," Samantha said. "I felt her moving because I was lying by her. I tried to get her to wake up, but her eyes were open and she wouldn't talk to me."
At about 10 p.m. on April 15, Samantha's grandmother, Raylene Palmer, was having a diabetic attack.
"I thought that she was just gonna get up, and she didn't get up. Since that's happened before, like how she was moving, I could realize that something was wrong."
The 7-year-old then found her cell phone that she uses to text message her parents while they're gone, like they unfortunately were that night. Her father, Richard, who is in the JAG Army Corps, was training in Virginia, and her mother, Jillianne, was working a closing shift at a restaurant.
Samantha then called 911, but ran into a problem when she didn't know her address to tell the emergency dispatchers.
The dispatchers, Heather Decker and Jonathan Clive, then helped lead firefighter Todd Bender to Samantha and her grandmother.
"I told the dispatchers we had our sirens on and asked them for her to listen for our sirens," Bender said. "She told them right back that she was hearing them, and it sounded like they were getting closer."
"They asked me what street I lived on and I said 'Meade Loop,'" Samantha said.
"They asked if I could flicker the light in the front off and on."
The firefighters saw the flickering light and were able to drive directly to the right apartment.
"It worked out pretty slick," Bender said. "She showed the guys upstairs to where her grandma was at, lying in the bed unconscious. She told us what she saw. She was above and beyond nice and calm - had great composure. She answered all of our questions clear and concise. She did a really good job for her age. She was pretty impressive."
After leading the emergency personnel to her grandmother, she then watched after her two younger sisters, Melanie, 5, and Amanda, 3; as well a barking dog.
"I took him out of the cage and I kept on holding him and holding him and holding him, but he still kept on barking," Samantha said.
Samantha's actions might have helped save her grandmother's life.
"It meant life or death for me," Palmer said. "My blood sugar was below 20, and below 20 I assume doesn't read on their meter. Given that I would have been left that way, who knows what would have happened. She was alert to that, so I'm very thankful."
It was actually the second time Palmer was thankful for Samantha being there for her. A similar incident happened at Fort Irwin, Calif., two years ago when Samantha was 5.
"She watches out for me a lot. She stays very close to me. It doesn't seem fair that she's so young and has to - or doesn't have to, but does. In her heart she feels that she needs to."
After returning to the fire station, Bender wrote two letters - one for Samantha and one for the dispatchers - to recognize their actions that night.
"It's a good story," Bender said. "Kid does well and helps save her grandma's life.