North end residents deserve better emergency servicesSometimes it takes a calamity to inspire positive change. We suspect that may be the case for residents of Troy and Flora, who are sorely in need of better emergency services.

Their dire straits were illustrated tragically last month when Jan Noel, a doctor of veterinary medicine, was killed while treating sick cow at her stepson and daughter-in-law's place near Flora. The sick cow suddenly bolted, knocking Noel to the ground. Before the doctor could roll to safety under the bottom wire of the coral, the cow slipped and fell on the 54-year-old women, killing her instantly.

Noel's daughter-in-law, Georgene Hensen, tried frantically to summon medical help while her husband and father-in-law tried to administer life-saving CPR.

She called 911 ... and the phone went dead. She had forgotten that friendly notice that came in the mail with her phone bill reminding that residents of Flora and Troy may experience up to a 20-second delay before getting through to a dispatcher.

"When an emergency like that happens those things are just erased from your mind," Hensen recalled of the horrific day at the ranch.

Desperate to get help, Hensen hung up and called the state police, who advised her they didn't dispatch ambulances. Instead, they patched her through to a Wallowa County sheriff's dispatcher. Hensen wanted a medevac helicopter. The dispatcher wanted Noel's condition.

"The dispatcher was totally rude," said Hensen, who finally got through to emergency services at Wallowa Memorial Hospital. Eight minutes after she made the 911 call Hensen had Dr. Devee Boyd on the line. He ascertained that Noel was unconscious and immediately dispatched a helicopter to the scene.

An examination after the fact indicated that by the time Boyd got the call it was already too late - Noel was gone. But the nightmare is a grim reminder of the need for emergency services.

Hopefully Noel's death will not be in vain. The event has become a catalyst for renewed interest in improving not only the 911 system but in placing an ambulance and possibly even an airstrip in the area.

As directors of international development for Washington State University, Noel and her husband devoted much of their lives to helping Third World countries develop water systems and other projects to improve quality of life in remote communities. Hopefully their loss can be transformed into something positive for the residents of Flora and Troy. R.S.

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