Location: Lansing, Michigan
Date: October 16, 1988
On October 16, 1988, Prima Church of Lansing, Michigan, arrived home after work, unlocked her front door, and went inside to unwind for the evening. She made herself a plate of nachos and carried it into her bedroom. Suddenly, Prima was confronted by an intruder wielding a knife, making her drop her plate of nachos. The robber blocked her escape through the front door and stabbed her in the chest, knocking her on the floor. The man grabbed her purse and threw it at her. Prima pulled out the little money she had and threw it at her assailant, who then ran out of the house.
Prima picked up the phone and dialed 911. "Hello," she said to dispatcher Paul Bouldin. "My name is Prima Church. I've just been stabbed. I'm bleeding all over the place." Bouldin instructed Prima to get a towel and apply pressure to the wound in her chest. Prima spoke calm at first and described the suspect to Bouldin, but as her condition deteriorated, panic set in.
"Just calm down," Bouldin told her. "I'm trying to keep calm, sir," Prima replied. "He was here waiting for me. He drank a beer--" "Okay, ma'am," interrupted Bouldin anxious to dispatch rescuers to her aid, "just hang on here, just a minute." "I'm bleeding!" "Yes, ma'am, I'm going to get someone en route."
Bouldin dispatched police and paramedics to the scene, then stayed on the line with Prima, trying to comfort her and help her stay calm until help arrived. Prima told Bouldin that the front door was locked. "Just stay where you are," he responded. "Don't move." "Oh, I hurt," she moaned. "I know you're hurting," said Bouldin. "Nice and easy, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth."
"I'm going to pass out," replied Prima, who lay on the floor. "I can feel it right now." Bouldin could hear Prima's voice quiver and grow weaker, and he was afraid she was going to die while he had her on the phone. But he knew he had to stay calm because his voice was her only link to outside help; if he didn't stay calm, she wouldn't either. "Just concentrate on your breathing," he repeated. "It hurts." "Go ahead, if you feel like crying, just let it out. Sometimes crying will help."
Police Sergeant Nancy Small was the first to arrive on the scene and found the front door locked. Bouldin told Prima that police officers had arrived and might break a window to get in the house. Sergeant Small went around the back of the house and saw an open window, which she presumed the assailant had used to gain entry. She climbed in through the window and hurried to open the back door for fellow officers and then the front door for paramedics.
Paramedics found Prima bleeding profusely from a chest wound caused by a knife blade. She was immediately transported to the hospital, where that evening she received a visitor, dispatcher Paul Bouldin, who wanted to meet the voice over the phone and wish her well. Prima was treated for a punctured lung and stab wounds and released from the hospital four days later.
Had she been unable to call 911, paramedics say it's likely that Prima could have bled to death. "As bad as the situation was," says Paul, "at least something good came out of it. She knew to dial 911 and it worked." Prima now lives with her brother and had become extremely cautious, but she says she's gone on with her life. "I can't live wondering and looking over my shoulder all the time," she says.
When Prima returned to work, her company asked if they could honor dispatcher Paul Bouldin. Prima was delighted, since she feels she owes her life to him. Bouldin was honored at a banquet attended by one thousand people. "They asked me to stand up," recalls Bouldin, "and they clapped and they clapped and they clapped. If I was anywhere else, I probably would have started crying. I was overwhelmed that everything I wanted to do had made a difference. I always had the feeling that my goal in life was to help people, and with 911, I can do that. Whatever emergency you have, you can call 911, and we'll be there." Prima's assailant, however, was never found.