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It didn’t matter that Rebecca Henry was off duty from her job as a 911 emergency dispatcher with the Kentucky State Police, when she heard a call for help, she answered .
Her selfless act earned her statewide recognition as the recipient of the 2012 Kentucky Governor’s Ambassador Award for Courage.
After finishing up a night on third shift on April 26, 2012, she went home to get some sleep, but a loud noise awakened her around 3:30 p.m.
Her husband told her to call 911. She grabbed the phone and ran outside where she found a truck had slammed head on into a tree.
“I knew it was really bad, but I didn’t see anyone in the vehicle,” she said.
But she heard a moan and realized the driver was lying across the console.
“He was not conscious and gushing blood,” she said. “I knew his neck was broke and he had a lot of facial fractures.”
Henry didn’t hesitate. She climbed inside and held his neck steady until an ambulance arrived.
“I just kept telling him I was there and to keep breathing,” she said.
An older man stopped the wreck site and told Henry the young man was his son.
“I told him I’d do what I could,” she said. So she stayed with the injured man, who was wedged in the vehicle and had to eventually be cut from the wreckage, for 45 minutes while help was on the way to her rural home in Pendleton County.
“It took a long time for them to get there. I was told he later coded in the helicopter,” she said.
The young man was fortunate and survived his injuries. When he was able he found Henry and thanked her for helping him.
To Henry, who dreamed as a child of being a nurse or doctor, helping someone, even a stranger, was just the right thing to do.
“I didn’t think about it,” she said. “I didn’t know if I could help him, but I knew I had to try.”
“I just kept telling him breathe, just keep breathing,” she said.
Henry believes it is a miracle the man survived, but is quick to downplay her role.
“I didn’t do it,” she said. “I just stabilized his neck.”
But people who know Henry weren’t surprised because they’ve witnessed her giving nature.
“She’s a very, very, very good employee,” said Jerry Keathley, telecommunications supervisor at KSP Post 6 in Dry Ridge. “She truly cares about people she talks to and to people who work here. I wouldn’t trade her for anything.”
“Rebecca stands ready, on or off duty, to provide emergency assistance to citizens and visitors of the Commonwealth,” said KSP Capt. Greg Crockett, commander of post 6.
Henry’s career as a dispatcher began when she started working as a dispatcher for a local trucking company. She decided she’d like a change and interviewed for an emergency dispatcher position at the then Grant County 911 Center. She didn’t get the job but impressed Al Rich, then captain of post 6, so much that he called her and offered her a job as a dispatcher.
Nine years later, she still enjoys helping people, often being their only line of communication in a crisis situation.
“There’s a lot of stress in the job and it does take a certain type of person to handle emergency calls,” she said.
For Henry, calls involving allegations of child abuse and death are the hardest.
“Two weeks after I started I took a call involving a child and it made me wonder if I could do this job. It was a heartbreaking situation and I cried through lunch,” she said.
She also wondered if she would continue as an emergency dispatcher when a person killed themself on Christmas Eve while she was on the phone with them.
“That’s probably one call I’m never going to forget,” she said.
Henry said she realizes that she doesn’t see what the officer sees when they respond to a call, but only hearing the story through a victim or bystander still makes a dispatcher part of the situation.
“I don’t get closure with how it all turned out,” she said. “I don’t know if they lived or died.”
Henry, who grew up in Williamstown, lacked two semesters finishing her studies as a medical assistant, because she said she just couldn’t give shots, but she feels that she’s doing the job she’s supposed to do.
“Twenty years later I ended up here helping people, just in a different way,” said the mother of three and grandmother of two.
She’s taken calls of massive car pileups, especially in bad weather. She’s even talked three different pregnant parents through deliveries while she was on the phone with them.
That kind of dedication also earned Henry the 2012 Civilian Of The Year award, her third since joining the KSP.
This one for her quick action when she spotted headlights in the middle of a field and she called 911 to get the driver help who had a diabetic emergency and hit a tree.
“I don’t like to talk about myself,” she said. “And I really didn’t do anything that anyone else wouldn’t have done. I don’t feel like I did anything extra, but if it were my son, I would want someone to stop and help.”