Dispatcher Hailed After Spending 8 Hours on Stroke Victim’s Call


A New York City emergency dispatcher is being hailed for spending nearly eight hours on the phone with an elderly woman who had suffered a stroke while rescuers tried to pinpoint her location.

Joann Hilman-Payne took the call around 1 p.m. on Monday and kept the line open until medics found Mary Thomas around 8:30 p.m. Her efforts are detailed in a letter from a dispatch captain seeking recognition for Hilman-Payne and her colleagues.

As emergency personnel searched for the cellphone number Thomas had called from, Hilman-Payne struggled to communicate with the stroke victim, whose speech was badly slurred, to keep her conscious.

While responders tried accessing a patient database, Lt. Arlene Simmons called a list of people with the same name as the patient. It later turned out Thomas did not live at the location she was calling from; she was actually working in the apartment as a housekeeper.

Emergency Medical Dispatch Capt. Philip Weiss reached out to both Verizon Wireless and the NYPD to help trace Thomas’s cellphone. After several failed leads, Verizon security was able to pinpoint Thomas’s location more precisely at about 8:30 p.m. via her cellphone signal.

EMTs were dispatched to an East 72nd Street apartment, where they finally found Thomas.

“I have no doubt that without the efforts of all involved, [the] outcome would not have been positive,” Weiss wrote.