Durant Emergency Dispatcher Gets Statewide Award - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Durant Emergency Dispatcher Gets Statewide Award


DURANT, OK -- A woman who's just gone through the shock of her life gets a statewide award for her work dealing with emergency situations.

Bryan County's dispatch supervisor got an alarming call about her teenage son. As she copes with her own emergency, colleagues decided she should be recognized for her work.

Every day, dispatchers take the calls that are a matter of life and death. "She's the one that tells us what we have what it is and how to get there," says Bryan County EMS Director Joe Barrett.

With 15 years on the job, Amber Cendejas was working a night shift in May when she got the call every dispatcher dreads. Her co-worker passed her the phone.

"She said, 'Is this Amber?' I said, 'Yeah,' and she said, 'Oobie's not breathing,' and then I heard my youngest son in the background trying to get him to breathe," says Cendejas.

Her son Justin Eliason, 18, had passed out at a party. He died of a drug overdose. Cendejas says she couldn't go until someone came to take her place.

"You can't leave your partner. There's other emergencies that are happening at the same time and so I had to trust that my officers and my medics and my firefighters would get there and handle things," says Cendejas.

After hearing about what happened, Cendejas's colleagues with Bryan County EMS decided to nominate her for an award as Oklahoma's EMT dispatcher of the year. They soon found out she had won.

"We wanted to do something that might help her spirit just a little bit and we felt like if she did get this that it would make an impression on her and know that she is appreciated," says Barrett.

After two months off, Cendejas went to the EMT Association conference in Tulsa to accept the award. Now she's back at work. "It's the opportunity and chance you get to just be a valuable piece of a puzzle, and to get to save lives," says Cendejas.

A total of 10 employees answer 911 calls around the clock for Bryan County. Cendejas says she still has questions about her son's death. The high school senior would have graduated from Choctaw Nation Interlocal Cooperative in May.