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Happy reunion for emergency medical dispatcher

When Emergency Medical Dispatcher Katie Vallis talked Leo Hickman through the birth of his son, she never imagined that one day she would meet the new addition to the family.

Leo recently wrote an article for the Guardian talking about his experience of the birth and expressed that it would be great to know the name of the person who had played such an important part in the event. Katie, who has only worked for the London Ambulance Service since February, was invited to Radio 5 Live on Monday (24 September) for an on-air reunion with the Hickman family, who travelled to London from their new home in Cornwall to meet her.

Leo and his wife Jane commended Katie on her calmness during the birth and were delighted to be able to put a face to the name. The birth was also special for Katie as it was her first as an emergency medical dispatcher.

Audio footage from the 999 call was played as part of the reunion on the Sarah Derbyshire Show and the public response to the interview was phenomenal. Following on from the radio show, Katie and the Hickman family were interviewed for BBC national news, GMTV, ITV London and ITV news, as well as appearing in national newspapers.

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Notes to editors

  • During a shift, 60 people work as emergency medical dispatchers, handling calls and dispatching help which can be in the form of an ambulance, fast response car or an emergency medical practitioner.
  • Last year the Service received over 1.2 million emergency calls and attended over 800,000 incidents.
  • 0.1% (1,192) of calls received are about babies born before arrival at hospital, this includes babies born at home in the presence of our staff. On average, one baby a week is born with our emergency medical dispatchers talking people through the birth.
  • All emergency medical dispatchers are trained in communication skills, first aid and call-taking protocols and procedures. We learn about providing dispatch life-support, which includes cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), emergency childbirth and treatment for choking. This ensures that the chain of survival can start at the first contact with the Service.
  • After this training, emergency medical dispatchers are supported and supervised during their first four weeks, working with an experienced call-taker. 

For more information, please contact London Ambulance Service communications department on 020 7921 5113.