Jeremy Schmeltzer said he thought he was going to die on April 6, when a severe asthma attack hit him while he was cleaning a guinea pig cage. The dander and dust aggravated his asthma and he was having a hard time breathing. When the attack hit, he tried his asthma inhaler. When that didn't work, he tried his nebulizer. When that didn't work, he called 9-1-1.
"That was probably the slowest time ever," the 22-year-old Schmeltzer said. "I remember trying to unlock my phone, but I was so frantic and shaking that I couldn't."
Prince William County Telecommunicator Jeanette Watson took Schmeltzer's call. With quick thinking and a new piece of technology, she helped save Schmeltzer's life.
Watson said that when she got the call, she could hear that Schmeltzer was having difficulty breathing. Schmeltzer couldn't speak and couldn't tell Watson his address.
Schmeltzer said he knew he wasn't able to help Watson, but he didn't know what to do about it. "I could hear everything that she was saying, but she couldn't understand what I was saying. It felt like time stopped a lot because I was just frantic over everything."
Watson turned to her coworker, who put Schmeltzer's cell phone number into the new RapidSOS system, which can determine the location of a cell phone down to a couple of meters. She said the system worked perfectly. "We pinpointed (the address). I put it in, and as soon as I did that, I let him know that … we were getting somebody out there."
Prince William County has made several technology enhancements over the past few years to address the demands of next generation 9-1-1 for the growing wireless, mobile population. "9-1-1 in Prince William County has always been a leader in technology, and we are always looking for ways to enhance service to the residents of the county," said Eddie Reyes, the director of Prince William County's Public Safety Communications. "Real-time location accuracy technology is the latest improvement we've made, and we've proven that it is absolutely critical to have in this day and age to help save lives."
Until this new system was installed, cell phones could only place the incident within a 50-meter radius, said Reyes. By accurately pinpointing which town house Schmeltzer lived in, the rescue squad was able to confidently enter the correct home to get to him in time. "We went from the haystack to finding the needle at the bottom, and literally saving his life at the end of that call for service," said Reyes.
Schmeltzer recently went to the county's emergency communications center to meet Watson and all of the people on the rescue squad who helped save him. "That was one of the worst days I ever had," he said, referring to that day in April. "If wasn't for the combination of all the efforts of everybody in this room … I would not be here right now."
Prince William Fire and Rescue Lt. Luke DeAtley was on the team that rescued Schmeltzer and said he and his team felt good about the save. "Once we got him to the ER, he was sitting up joking with us. We drop patients off all the time, and we don't necessarily see the outcome. To have him be able to sit up and talk to us afterward and to know that everything came together was gratifying."
Watson said the same. "It … makes me feel great that I was able to save a life. It actually makes me feel very thankful that I was here to help him, doing my job and using the tools that were given to us."
Reyes agreed. "The combination of the technology that we are constantly looking at, and always looking to improve, combined with the staff we have here… only means that Prince William County residents will be safer."