6-year-old Fayette County boy's call helps save mother's life

| Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, 12:34 a.m.

The family of a 6-year-old boy is crediting the youngster with saving his mother's life when the woman suffered an initally incapacitating stroke in her Fayette County home.

“There was something wrong with her brain,” said Wayne Fuller of his mother, Stephanie Fuller.

“I called 911,” said the shy first-grader at South Side Elementary in the Connellsville Area School District. “The cops and an ambulance came.”

Wayne's aunt, Jenifer Rhodes, 25, said that her sister, who is 28, had suffered a brain-stem stroke.

“She said she woke up and felt something was in her eyes, and it was burning,” Rhodes said.

“She said she yelled for Wayne, went in the bathroom and splashed water on her face,” Rhodes said. “From there, she lost her vision, her ability to talk and her ability to move.”

Wayne and his brother, Ethan, 4, were the only other family members in the house on East Patterson Avenue in Connellsville when their mother collapsed on the bathroom floor early Tuesday, Rhodes said.

Wayne knew how to use his mother's cellphone to call 911 for help, Rhodes said.

“He's an amazing little man,” Rhodes said. “We tell him he's a hero because he saved his mommy. He asked what a hero was, and when we told him, he said he saved her because she's his only mommy, and he loves his mommy.”

Rhodes said paramedics took Fuller to Highlands Hospital in Connellsville. From there, she was transferred to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where she remains hospitalized, her sister said.

Guy Napolillo, Fayette 911 coordinator, said the 911 center received a hang-up call from Fuller's residence at 5:23 a.m.

When the 911 dispatcher called back, a small child answered and reported that his mother was dizzy, light-headed and could not move. The boy gave the dispatcher his address.

“It sounds like the child really did a good job,” Napolillo said.

Becky Thorpe, 33, of Uniontown said she has known the Fuller family for 15 years and was not surprised to learn that Wayne knew what to do when his mother fell ill.

“I'm just so happy for him,” Thorpe said. “He saved his mother's life. When I was 6 years old, I wouldn't know what to do, and I would have been scared, and crying.”

Connellsville police Chief James Capitos said when officers arrived at Fuller's house, they discovered the two young boys and their mother, who could not walk and had difficulty talking.

Capitos said 911 calls from children are infrequent, but he's not surprised when youngsters know what to do in an emergency. Most children nowadays are familiar with computers and smartphones, he said, and parents can make a difference by teaching them how to use the devices when help is needed.

“This is what parents are supposed to do,” Capitos said. “It just goes to show you, if you explain to a child, if something happens, this is what you should do.”

Rhodes said her nephew wasn't done helping police and paramedics after the 911 call. He and Ethan directed a police officer as he drove them to their grandmother's house in the city.

“He asked him if there was a family member where he could take them,” Rhodes said. “The cop said he showed them the way to his Gammie's house, and they were telling the cop about every stop sign, and where to go.”

Napolillo said the Fayette 911 center has received a number of calls from children, but it's not a common occurrence.

“It's not an everyday event, but it does happen with some frequency,” Napolillo said. “We've had some situations in different parts of the county where children have made a difference. Somebody has taught them to call 911, and they've done the right thing.”

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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