By STACY RYBURN World Staff Writer | Posted: Thursday, September 10, 2015 12:00 am
Jaime Torres Jr., 10, receives an award from EMSA dispatcher Mary Gruber as his mother, Else; 3-year-old sister, Maria; and father, Jaime Torres Sr., watch at City Hall on Wednesday. Jaime called 911 when Maria wouldn’t wake up, and he translated between Gruber’s English and his parents’ Spanish. He continued translating during the ambulance ride, helping save his sister’s life. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
Not every 10-year-old gets recognized by his city for bravery, and not every person stays calm in a dire situation.
Jaime Torres Jr. has done both.
On July 5, Jaime’s 3-year-old sister, Maria, suddenly passed out and stopped breathing. Jaime took it upon himself to call 911, and while on the line, he translated the EMSA dispatcher’s instructions to his parents, Elsa and Jaime Torres Sr.
The Torreses checked their daughter’s breathing and pulse, cleared her airway and counted her breaths. By the time an ambulance arrived, Maria was stable and breathing.
But Jaime wasn’t finished there. He got in the ambulance with his sister, mother and the paramedics and translated the whole way to the hospital, keeping the situation under control.
Maria was OK. She was at City Hall on Wednesday night with her parents and Jaime, who received accolades before a meeting of the Greater Tulsa Hispanic Affairs Commission.
“Jaime remained calm, cool and collected — just like he is right now,” said EMSA spokesman Adam Paluka, who also serves as a liaison on the commission.
EMSA has a language line at the 911 Center for relay-based translation, but sometimes that process can take time.
Having someone in the room to make the translation can make a huge difference, Paluka said.
“There’s not always going to be a Jaime,” he said.
Jaime quietly accepted certificates of recognition from Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. and City Councilor Connie Dodson. Both expressed how proud they were of the 10-year-old’s quick actions.
“There are so many people in this city that would be alive if they had somebody nearby like you, able to be cool and active and call the right people and do the right thing,” Bartlett said. “Sometimes people get scared and they panic and they just don’t know what to do. You obviously did.”
Dodson said she saw a career as a 911 call taker in Jaime’s future.
“I know grown adults who wouldn’t be able to hold it together. They wouldn’t be able to speak; they wouldn’t be able to even communicate with the operator themselves,” she said. “It’s amazing that you were able to do that.”
Mary Gruber, the dispatcher to whom Jaime talked at the time, presented him an EMSA Everday Hero Award medal.
But that wasn’t the only hardware Jaime took home.
Bartlett also gave Jaime a lapel pin with the inscription “OKIE Tulsa,” the acronym standing for “Oklahoma, Key to Intelligence and Enterprise,” coined by his father, the late Gov. and Sen. Dewey Bartlett.