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Montana dispatcher recognized for saving lives

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Posted at 6:13 PM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 20:13:00-04

A job as a 911 dispatcher is fast-paced, hectic, and rewarding, according to Natalie Russell, a dispatcher who was recently awarded for saving two lives.

“It’s always nice to be recognized when you make a difference,” said Russell. “We’re just a calm voice in the dark is what they say for dispatchers. We’re never seen.”

Russell Has been a dispatcher at Gallatin County 911 for three years.

“I liked the law enforcement and medical fields,” said Russell. “I saw the job posting and felt the calling you could say.”

As a dispatcher, Russell only has seconds to dissect a situation. Every call she takes could be the difference between life and death.

“In the beginning, I was a little nervous,” said Russell. “When I’d hear that 911 call I was like ‘okay…what’s this gonna be today.”

But these days, her nerves are non-existent.

On Aug. 31, Russell was awarded for her service to the community. She saved not one but two lives.

On Aug. 4, Russell received a 911 call concerning a week-old baby that was not breathing. Russell immediately began administering infant telephone CPR. The child began breathing on their own and was transported to the hospital. She survived because of Russell’s quick thinking.

“You just talk calmly to them and not raise your voice,” said Russell. “I just told her ‘okay ma’am, we’re gonna help your baby’. It’s scary, she was by herself with her other child there and her baby wasn’t breathing.”

On Aug.24, she received a 911 call about a man who was unconscious and not breathing.

"She said his lips were going blue, so I told her to put the phone next to his mouth,” said Russell. “I heard the agonal sound, which sounds like a rattly sound. I said ‘we need to start CPR.’”

Russell’s decision saved the man’s life. She says she is thankful for her training and protocols that help her make tough decisions in times of crisis.

“The protocols are all important,” said Russell. “They give you instructions on what to ask, how to tell them to do something, stop bleeding, and even deliver a baby.”

Natalie says receiving the two Lifesaver awards means a lot to her and the feeling of saving a life is indescribable.

“You never know what you're going to get when that phone rings,” said Russell. “It's a good feeling knowing that you can help somebody on their worst day.”