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Deerfield police dispatcher ‘grateful’ efforts helped Puerto Rico hospital

From Deerfield, Desirae Kuceba played role in helping patients in hurricane-stricken country.

By Dan Campana

After 18 years as a Deerfield Police Department dispatcher, Desirae Kuceba understands that you never know what to expect from the caller on the other end.

That certainly rang true on Sept. 24 when a woman from Riverwoods – one of the suburbs dispatched by Deerfield – dialed 911 with a desperate call to get fuel to a hospital in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico where approximately 20 patients on life support faced danger if the facilities electrical generator shut down.

“My first thought was ‘How are we going to help someone so far away?’” Kuceba recalled. “I wanted to reassure her we were going to help in any way we could, even though I wasn’t quite certain exactly how we were going to do that.”

Kuceba sent an officer to speak with the woman and then started researching who and how to connect with anyone tied to the relief efforts. She tried a few resources, including FEMA, before reaching someone with the Red Cross.

In a bit of a role reversal, Kuceba was the one explaining the situation to the Red Cross operator on the other end of the phone about what she knew of the situation at the hospital in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, and how to reach the initial caller. Kuceba acknowledges she didn’t know if it would be enough, but she followed up with the Riverwoods woman after wrapping up with the Red Cross.

“I also told her to expect a call from them and to wait by the phone because we didn’t have an ETA,” Kuceba explained. “I hoped to give her some reassurance that the situation was progressing and that we, hopefully, had found the right resources.”

In the end, Kuceba’s work on behalf of the caller made the difference as the needed fuel arrived on Monday not long before the generators were expected to run out. Dispatchers don’t always get a chance to talk with the people they help after a 911 call. However, the timing worked out for Kuceba to hear the results.

“The caller just happened to contact the department Monday evening to provide an update when I was working afternoon shift. She told me the whole story and I was so grateful to hear a successful outcome,” Kuceba explained. “It really was an amazing feeling to know I played a small part in helping these people.”

Deerfield Police Communications Supervisor Mary Anne Glowacz and the department itself on Facebook praised all their dispatchers – most prominently the long-distance difference Kuceba made through her “above and beyond” dedication. Kuceba said the situation is just another example of the skill and poise police telecommunicators display every day.

“TC’s are often required to think and act quickly with any emergency,” she said. “This job requires an innate desire to help others, empathy, compassion and common sense.

“I train new hires and tell them to always put yourself in the caller’s shoes (and) treat them as you would like to be treated. This may be the worst day of their lives and we are the ones they need to reassure them,” Kuceba added.