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Police Dispatcher In Ventura County Helps Save Life Of Man Having Heart Attack In Norway

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Pam Shanahan (center) with parents in Oslo. Her father suffered a heart attack on Christmas Day, and a Simi Valley Police dispatcher reached Oslo authorities to send life saving help

Picture this: You’re on the phone with a relative, and they are talking gibberish. You suspect they are having a stroke. You’d call paramedics in their city for help, right? But, what if that relative was in a city halfway around the world?

That’s the situation Pam Shanahan of Simi Valley found herself facing on Christmas Day. Her mother, and her 93 year in father live in Oslo, Norway.

Her nephew called to say that his grandfather, who is Shanahan’s dad, didn’t sound normal during a phone call. So, she called him in Oslo, and says he was talking gibberish. Shanahan got her mom on the phone, to try to get her to call Oslo paramedics for help. But, she says her mother, who’s living with dementia, didn’t think there was anything wrong.

So, Shanahan tried calling Oslo Police, but got disconnected. At a loss to what to do after she couldn’t get through to first responders in Norway, she called 911, and was connected to the Simi Valley Police Department’s Communication Center.

It was a quiet Christmas Day morning when dispatcher Lauren Harkins received Shanahan’s call. She says she could hear the panic in Shanahan’s voice, and even though it wasn’t something happening locally, decided she would try to help.

Because it was an international call, she used her own cell phone. Harkins says the Norwegian officials didn’t understand what was happening at first, and thought the call was a mistake. But, she persisted, and they sent help. Shanahan says the doctors later told her help arrived just in the nick of time. Her father had suffered a heart attack, and also had pneumonia.

She and her son flew out to Oslo. Remarkably, her father recovered quickly enough that he was back at home within a week.

Public safety dispatchers usually don’t hear the end result of the emergency calls they handle, but in this case Shanahan was so grateful she wanted to thank Harkins in person, visiting her at police headquarters. Shanahan calls Harkins an angel.

She says what makes the story extra special is that her father is alive to enjoy his 93rd birthday this week. And, in two weeks, her father and mother will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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