CHICAGO (CBS) — A north suburban police dispatcher had no way of knowing when she answered a 911 call on Saturday that her response would affect the lives of people 2,100 miles away in hurricane-battered Puerto Rico.
Deerfield dispatcher Desirae Kuceba received a call from a woman in Riverwoods, who did not know where to turn. The caller knew about a hospital in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, where patients were in danger of dying.
“They were low on diesel, and they needed the diesel to operate ventilators for approximately 20 patients,” Kuceba said. “I told her I wasn’t exactly sure how we were going to help, but we were going to help.”
Kuceba started making calls. She got through to someone at the American Red Cross, which got word to FEMA.
Kuceba’s supervisor, Mary Anne Glowacz, said FEMA told the Riverwoods’ woman’s contact at the hospital in Puerto Rico to be at the hospital on Sunday to receive the diesel shipment, but it didn’t come.
The next day, the contact was told to return to the hospital on Monday to be there when the diesel truck arrived, according to Glowacz. She said FEMA told them the first diesel truck had been hijacked the day before.
Kuceba said she was told the fuel arrived less than two hours before the hospital’s generator would have run out of fuel, possibly causing the patients on ventilators to die.
“They were able to get the needed resources delivered and it turned out we helped save some lives,” Kuceba said. “I’ve never had to use resources that extend beyond the state of Illinois. So to have the ability to find and help someone outside of my reach is a great feeling.”
Glowacz said she isn’t surprised Kuceba went the extra mile.
“She’s done it before,” she said.
Kuceba has been a police dispatcher in Deerfield for 18 years. She said she loves her job.
“I think you have to go into this job wanting to help people and knowing we’re there,” she said.