Archive for November, 2013

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is a common occurrence in this profession.  Combine long hours (8-14) with forced or voluntary overtime due to sick calls and vacation days and working several days (sometimes up to 7) in a row, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.  We have all come into work bleary eyed with dark circles under our eyes, gulping down various sorts of caffeine in an effort to force our eyelids open.  According to WebMD, ( the following are 10 side effects of sleep deprivation

  • Sleepiness causes accidents
  • Sleep loss dumbs you down
  • Sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems
  • Lack of sleep kills sex drive
  • Sleepiness is depressing
  • Lack of sleep ages your skin
  • Sleepiness makes you forgetful
  • Losing sleep can make you gain weight
  • Lack of sleep may increase risk of death
  • Sleep loss impairs judgment, especially about sleep

 I have had my own issues with sleep deprivation and can relate to several side effects listed above.  The following is what happened at my worst ~ my most exhausted moment during my dispatching career.

 I was married with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old when I first started my job at Bloomington Police Department.  My husband worked daytime hours and I was stuck on dogwatch due to lack of seniority.  One major change in the cost of living from Indiana to Minnesota was the cost of child care.  I think I paid $100 per week for two kids in Indiana and it was $300-$400 per week in Minnesota.  Needless to say, we really couldn’t afford child care.  So…  I came up with the brilliant idea of staying up during the day with both kids and sleeping for a few hours when my husband came home.  I did that for years.  Once both of my kids were school age, it was much easier because I could sleep during the day.  When Taylor, my daughter was in kindergarten (half day during the morning), I was separated from my husband.  I would arrive home from dogwatch at 0730hrs and sleep until she got home around noon.  Austin, my son, was in 2nd grade by then and at school the entire day.  My husband and I lived in separate apartments in the same complex during part of our separation.  My goal was to wake up before the bus came to drop Taylor off and I would meet her at the bus stop and bring her home.  Keep in mind that my doorbell at my apartment did not work.  I thought this was a great thing at the time.  Trying to sleep during the day and waking up to solicitors ringing the doorbell is not fun.

 After three years (at this point) of working dogwatch and trying to save money on child care by staying up during the day, I managed to get about 3-4 hours of sleep.  Sometimes only two hours.  I was exhausted.  I was living in a fog.  My coworkers told me time and time again I needed to get more sleep.  I pushed their concerns aside, put on my Superwoman cape and plodded down the path I was on.  I thought at the time I was just fine.  I considered my lack of sleep as a sacrifice I was making for my family.  Sure I was tired, but weren’t we all tired with the long hours and the hectic schedule???  I would survive through this!  This isn’t a big deal.  Other people are in worse situations than I am.  I’ve got this!  No problem!  Oh, how wrong I was…

 My coworkers love this story because I made an absolute fool out of myself.  I think they were only disappointed that they weren’t there to see it. 

Taylor Kindergarten 2

If my memory serves me right, it was the first day of kindergarten or at least the first week.  Taylor was adorable as a 5-year-old.  She was bright and spunky and ready to go to school like her big brother!  We got her on the bus with her backpack, name tag, and emergency notification card (in case she got lost).  I was excited for her to start her school career, and even more excited to get a few hours of sleep while she was gone!  I went to bed, set my alarm for noon and fell into an exhausted sleep for a few short hours.  I woke up to a message being left on my answering machine.  In my sleep deprived stupor, I heard a message from an “Officer Sanchez” with Washington County Sheriff’s Department telling me that my daughter had been taken to St Joseph’s Home for Children.  I looked at the time and it was 1:00pm.  AN HOUR PAST THE TIME TAYLOR WAS SUPPOSED TO BE HOME FROM SCHOOL.  I completely FREAKED out.  I had visions of my baby girl finding her way home alone, knocking on the door and ringing the doorbell that didn’t work trying to wake me up to let her in.  I pictured her alone, tears streaming down her sweet face, not knowing what to do.  I tried to play the message again to hear a phone number I could call as I was frantically searching the phone book for the Washington County non-emergency number.  I was in such a panic that I quickly gave up and called 911.  I wish I had a recording of that phone call because I was babbling like an idiot.  The dispatcher who answered was extremely kind and patient with me.  I explained, words flying out of my mouth at a speed that I’m sure was incomprehensible, that I had overslept and was not there to get my child from the bus stop and my doorbell didn’t work and I had received a phone message from Officer Sanchez that she had taken Taylor to St Joe’s because no one could find me.  She told me that their department did not have an Officer Sanchez and asked if I was sure that was the correct name.  She didn’t see any calls within the past few hours involving a 5-year-old child that was left abandoned at the bus stop.  In the midst of my meltdown, the dispatcher told me to take a deep breath and told me to play the message again.  With the dispatcher on the phone, I played the message so both she and I could hear it.  I was MORTIFIED.  It was not a call from an Officer Sanchez.  It was a call from the secretary of another school telling me that Taylor was just fine and was in their office eating lunch; she had not gotten off the bus at the right stop and the bus driver had brought her to this school because he had to pick up kids there to take home.  Oh.  My.  God.

 I breathed in huge gulps of air (I was nearly hyperventilating), wiped the tears streaming down my face and felt an enormous wave of relief.  I was so relieved that no one had taken my child to St Joe’s and that she was safe and sound at a school just down the road from where I lived.  The dispatcher gently told me that everything was just fine, Taylor was safe and sound and she was glad everything turned out okay.  She kindly suggested that I take a few minutes to pull myself together prior to retrieving my daughter.  Remember that list of the side effects of sleep deprivation ~ yes, the one about sleep loss dumbing you down???  Yep, that was me.  Somehow, in my sleep deprived mind, I heard that message say what I feared the most.  As a dispatcher, when we need to find a safe place for children and there isn’t a relative to release them to, we take them to St Joe’s.  St Joe’s is a wonderful place full of compassionate staff members and they do wonderful things there for children going through a rough time.  As wonderful as this place is, it is no place for any child of mine. 

 When I walked into the school office, my daughter was sitting happily in a chair coloring.  The office girls had taken wonderful care of her.  They had made sure she was given lunch, that she was content and reassured that I was coming to get her.  As I hugged her close to me, breathing her in, I thanked God that she was safe and sound.  It was this incident that finally convinced me I could not go on with such little sleep.  I was out of my mind in a state of delirium because I was so exhausted.  Taylor survived the ordeal and really didn’t seem to bat an eye at what happened.  She told me she didn’t get off the bus when she was supposed to and the bus driver took her to the school down the road because he was picking up some other kids there.  Taylor has always been resilient, even at 5 years old.  I was proud of her for being so brave and not being a messy puddle of tears (like her mother) when I picked her up

My coworkers literally howled with laughter when I told them my story the next day.  I received several “I told you so” comments in regard to my constant exhaustion.  I am glad that this was the worst thing that happened to me in my sleep deprived state.  I’m grateful I didn’t fall asleep driving on the way home and crash into another vehicle.  Sleepy drivers can be terrifying on the road.  If you find that you are pushing yourself way beyond your limits and you are at the extreme limits of sleep deprivation, I am begging you to take a moment to reevaluate your situation.  Are you depriving yourself of sleep out of necessity?  Is it worth falling asleep on the drive home and crashing into another vehicle ~ possibly killing the occupants ~ possibly killing yourself?  As dispatchers, we advocate safety to everyone.  We ask our officers, firefighters, and paramedics to stay safe.  We ask our family, friends and loved ones to stay safe.  We give life-saving instructions to our 911 callers to keep them safe.  We need to take our own advice and keep ourselves safe.  Getting enough sleep is a part of that!


The Battle of the Bulge

 Many a dispatcher has fallen victim to the battle of the bulge.  In the past five years, I have allowed myself to gain 75 pounds.  Ugh…  The reason?  Yep…  A broken heart.  After my divorce, I lost 30 pounds, looked great and felt even better.  I started dating a man who I really thought was a perfect match for me.  After moving in together (after 2 ½ years of dating) and getting engaged, I discovered some information about him that he had failed to tell me.  I won’t go into details, but let’s just say it was a doozy.  My heart was absolutely shattered and I completely lost all faith in love.  I just flat-out didn’t care anymore.  And I proceeded to wallow in self-pity (and ice cream) for five years. 

  I have never been this heavy in my life.  Add wallowing in self-pity to a job that has me sitting on my butt for 10 hours a shift, and you end up with what I have become.  I absolutely cannot stand it anymore.  So I’m making a change…

             This is what I’ve done in the past two and a half weeks:

  1.  I have given up pop and sugar
  2. I have not eaten fast food
  3. I have been making better food choices and counting calories
  4. I went to “the fat doctor” and got on a prescription for Phentermine (
  5. I have started the “Couch to 5k” treadmill workout (
  6. I have signed up for an accountability group at with a high school friend as my coach
  7. I have started drinking Shakeology once a day (
  8. I will be starting FocusT25 on Monday (            

  If I don’t lose this weight now and keep it off, I’m going to wind up being 300 pounds of misery.  Who wants that?  I am not relying on just myself to accomplish this goal.  I am doing some extra things like the Phentermine and Shakeology to help me get there.  Is that cheating?  Maybe.  Do I care?  Not one bit. 

  I blame no one but myself for gaining this weight.  No one forced me to eat unhealthy meals.  No one chained me down and refused to let me exercise.  Broken heart or not, I led myself down this path and it’s time to turn things around before it gets too far out of control.  There is nothing worse than shopping in the “women’s” section of a store.  I miss cute clothes.  Seriously.  I find myself staring ~ longingly~ across the aisle at the “misses” section with huge amounts of envy.  It has been so long since I have been able to look in a mirror and smile.  Not only do I miss looking good in my clothes, I miss having energy.  I have been carrying around the weight of a 10-year-old child for so long that I’m exhausted.  I have worn jeans for the past three summers in 90 degree heat because I can’t stand the thought of wearing shorts when I am this heavy.

 So…  I’m saying enough is enough.  I set out two and a half weeks ago to lose 75 pounds and I’ve lost 15 so far.    I have 60 to go!  I am hopeful that by next year, at this time, I will have reached my goal. 

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