HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A man found lying in the middle of a Holland street after suffering an apparent heart attack is alive thanks to quick action by a bystander and instructions from a 911 operator.

The call came into Ottawa County 911 just before 11 a.m. on Oct. 29.

“Sir, are you OK? Sir,” the caller is heard before speaking to the 911 operator. “There’s a man lying on the ground.”

“I could tell by the panic in the guy’s voice, my caller, that there was something wrong,” Ottawa County 911 Dispatch Supervisor Megan Chapman later told News 8.

“Sir? I think he may not be alive,” the caller told 911.

Chapman wasn’t supposed to be taking calls that morning, but they were short-staffed, so she manned a console.

“Just happened to pick up that phone call,” Chapman said. “You never know what you’re going to get.”

On the other end of the line was a good Samaritan and his wife, who came across a man lying on West 24th Street near Ottawa Avenue in Holland, unconscious and having a heart attack.

“He’s lying flat on his face,” the caller said. “Oh, he made a noise. What should I do?”

“Is he breathing?” Chapman asked the caller.

“I don’t think so,” the caller said. “I don’t know.”

“He was nervous,” Chapman told News 8. “His wife was in the background of the call. You can hear her … like elevated. I don’t want to say screaming, but really upset. They were kind of in a panic, which is understandable.”

It’s one thing to teach CPR using a dummy in a classroom situation, but it’s quite another to teach streetside CRP with a victim dying in front of you.

But Chapman, who’s also a part-time firefighter, knows her stuff. 

“I’m going to tell you how to do chest compressions, OK? My partners have everybody coming, so we’re going to help them before everybody gets there,” Chapman told the bystander. “Place the heal of your hand on the breastbone in the center of his chest, right between his nipples. Put your other hand on top of that. We’re going to pump the chest hard and fast at least twice per second, about 2 inches deep.”

It didn’t take long for the unidentified good Samaritan to catch on.

“We’re going to go one, two, three, four. One, two, three, four,” Chapman told the man and could hear him counting to himself. “Keep going at that pace. Good job.”

It would be nearly five minutes from the start of the call before the sounds of sirens could be heard racing towards the scene. 

“One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four,” could be heard as the good Samaritan continued CPR on the unidentified victim.

“I hear them arriving on scene but keep going until they come and take over. OK? Just keep going. Don’t stop,” Chapman told the man.

Moments later, Holland firefighters arrived with an automatic defibrillator and took over for the good Samaritan, whose crash course in CPR likely saved the man’s life.

Megan Chapman, a supervisor with the Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority, was recognized with a Life Saver Award.
Megan Chapman, a supervisor with the Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority, was recognized with a Life Saver Award. (Courtesy Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority)

This kind of thing happen to dispatchers more than you might think. The efforts of firefighters, police officers and EMTs are often on public display: But not 911 dispatchers.

And once the call is over, they seldom learn the impact of their efforts.

“Sometimes we don’t even get an outcome. That’s why they say our job is an adrenalin dump. We are up here, then we get dropped down,” Chapman said. 

But not this time.

A Holland police officer told Chapman the heart attack victim, taken to hospital in critical condition, is now recovering and extended his gratitude to everyone involved.

Chapman’s coworkers recognized her this week with a Life Saver Award.

“It hits the heart. It’s good. And it’s good to recognize us as a group. A lot of people don’t look at us as first responders, but we’re the first ones on that phone,” Chapman said. 

Ottawa’s 911 Dispatch Authority is looking for dispatchers. If you’re interested in learning more, go to occda.org.