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Dial deliverance: 10-year-old’s 911 call likely saves grandpa’s life
Chris Beattie/Staff Photo – Ten-year-old Trinity Dudek potentially saved her diabetic grandfather’s life Oct. 8 when she called 911 and got help after he’d collapsed from low blood sugar levels. The Glen Oaks Elementary fifth-grader will be recognized for her action Nov. 9 by the Collin County Sheriff’s office.
Call 911. It’s an adage ingrained early in kids’ minds.
Yet when the time comes, when everything is on the line, how many remember it? Trinity Dudek did, and it likely saved her grandfather’s life.
“I knew that if I panicked, I wouldn’t be able to function,” said Trinity, who was the only hope for her helpless relative the morning of Oct. 8. “I knew I needed to stay calm.”
Trinity, a fifth-grader at Glen Oaks Elementary in McKinney, and her younger sister Amory were staying the night at her grandfather Robert Culbertson’s house in Lucas. He agreed to the sleepover because their mother, Samantha Dudek, had to take part in a McKinney ISD teacher work day while they got the time off.
Around 2 a.m. the next morning, Trinity, asleep on the living room couch, heard a faint, ‘Help.’ She heard another gasp followed by her name and knew it was Culbertson.
Her grandfather lay nearly motionless in his room, desperate for words. A Type II diabetic, his blood sugar levels were dangerously low.
“There was a little bit of blood on the ground from when he had stumbled,” Trinity recalled. “That really scared me.”
Just not into a frenzy. The 64-year-old Culbertson pleaded for candy, Coke, something sweet. Trinity scrambled for M&Ms, but they weren’t helping. She and Amory found only Sprite.
Trinity called 911. She calmly explained to dispatch the situation as an unaware Amory went to watch TV.
Dispatch needed the address and Trinity didn’t have it. She ran outside and looked all over, but it was too dark to see, she said. That’s when it hit her: the mail.
She read off address from a street sign and piece of mail in the mailbox, and was promptly told help was on the way. Trinity, who admitted she didn’t initially realize her grandfather could have died, stayed on the line until flashing lights showed up.
“Honestly, if it weren’t for her, I don’t know what would have happened,” Samantha said.
Collin County Sheriff’s deputies called Samantha around 3:30 a.m., and she rushed over from her house in Melissa. Culbertson was fine, his blood sugar stabilized.
He didn’t even need to go to the hospital. By then Trinity was back in the living room, working on her student council presidential election posters as if nothing had happened. “She went back to being a kid again,” Samantha said.
Her grownup demeanor in handling the emergency deserved some recognition, Samantha told the deputies, something that could bolster Trinity to her class presidency. They agreed, and one called his supervisor, who knew just the thing.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) honors children under 12 as “911 Heroes” for knowing when to call 911, keeping calm in a crisis and following the dispatcher’s instructions. Trinity fit the bidding.
“To do all those things in that situation is incredible,” said Nancy Dana, 911 public educator and operations specialist with NCTCOG. “She’s a pretty amazing little girl who acted very adult.”
Deputies told Samantha this was a perfect opportunity for such an honor. On Friday, the sheriff’s office will hold a ceremony for Trinity, and give her a certificate of achievement, medal and 911 Hero t-shirt.
Samantha, who has since heard Trinity’s call, said she was amazed by how well Trinity conducted herself. Culbertson, a twice-retired engineer, matter-of-factly tells his granddaughter, “Well, you saved my life,” but tears up and proclaims, “That’s my girl,” to her mother.
On a new diabetes medication, he admits he should have shared a bowl of ice cream with the girls before bed that night – been better at doing “just the little things to maintain a healthy lifestyle when diabetic,” Samantha said.
Trinity’s friends don’t believe her story or see her as a heroine. And she may not be student council president.
But she’ll likely always remember the day she saved her grandfather. Just like she remembered to call 911.
“From the time she was itty bitty, she’s been very mature and been able to process things way beyond her years,” Samantha said. “But to be put to the test like this and go through it so effortlessly and with such grace, I’m very proud of her.”