Saturday, September 1st, 2007
By Margie Wuebker
8-year-old Celina girl's call to 911 likely saves her mom's life
MONTEZUMA - Ask Kaylee Stienecker how to save a life and the Celina East Elementary School third-grader quickly responds, "Call 911."
That's exactly what the precocious 8-year-old did after being unable to rouse her mother the night of Aug. 9.
Kathy "Kat" Stienecker had been lying on the couch battling a headache and an upset stomach as a television movie played in the background. At some point, the 43-year-old woman sat up and then got to her feet before collapsing onto the carpeted floor.
"I tried to wake her," Kaylee says. "She wouldn't talk or anything."
With her father at work and no one else around, the girl remembered instructions her mother offered years ago - "If something bad ever happens, call 911 right away." She left her mother's side just long enough to get the cordless phone.
Dispatcher Kelly Westgerdes fielded the call shortly after 6:30 p.m. Concern clearly registered in the child's soft spoken plea for help.
"My mom's on the floor and she won't move," Kaylee said. "I'm scared."
Westgerdes, a 13-year employee of the Mercer County Sheriff's Office, dispatched an ambulance and then turned her attention to the young caller.
"The lady told me to stay calm and help would be here in a few minutes," Kaylee recalls. "She asked me to stay on the line and I did until the siren came real close. I was kinda happy to hear it because people in the ambulance could help my mom."
After opening the door for medics, she picked up the phone and called her dad Mike at Globus Printing in Minster. A deputy responding to the Cottonwood Road address asked neighbors Dave and Elaine Klosterman to stay with the girl as the ambulance left enroute to Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater.
Father and daughter later walked into the emergency room hand in hand to learn the doctor suspected a massive stroke. Subsequent tests confirmed the diagnosis.
"I got to see my mom for a little bit but not very long," Kaylee says quietly. "She was awake, but she couldn't talk. I told her I loved her and that I would see her when she felt better. I think that made her happy."
A waiting helicopter flew her mother to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Ind.
After nearly two weeks in the intensive care unit, Kathy now is in the rehabilitation department, where she undergoes physical and speech therapy at least 31/2 hours each day. She has regained the ability to swallow and to say a few words, but doctors warn the road to recovery will be long and bumpy. However, they point out she would not have survived without the girl's quick intervention.
Kaylee, who has been staying with paternal grandparents Willard and Norma Stienecker, calls mom daily and visits several times a week bringing stuffed bears from McDonald's Happy Meals to brighten the hospital room.
Mike has developed nerve problems in the interim and doctors have ordered him not to work until things improve. He spends day and night at his wife's bedside assisting with therapy and reading much appreciated get-well cards. Family members are considering the establishment of a fund to help with mounting hospital bills.
Meanwhile, Kaylee longs to share the importance of calling 911 in the event of an emergency with other youths, not just fellow third-graders.
"I'm hoping the principal will let me talk during an assembly," she says. "All kids need to know about this because you never know when something will happen. Hopefully, they will remember to go to the phone for help."
Norma Stienecker listens to her granddaughter with justifiable pride, calling her a miracle child.
"Doctors warned Mike and Kathy years ago they would never have children," she says. "Kaylee was born after their 17th wedding anniversary. Kathy gave her life and God allowed this little girl to return the gift."
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