image of Jenny hugging a survivor
Jenny Inman hugs heart attack survivor Karin Livingston when they met in January at a special ceremony honoring Inman’s life-saving efforts. | Photo courtesy of Houston Emergency Center

 

There are only three things Houston Emergency Center Senior 9-1-1 Telecommunicator Jenny Inman said she tries to do when she’s at work: save people’s lives, catch bad guys and keep police, fire and EMT units safe. 

Oh, and one more thing: making sure those units she has out on the streets get home to their families. 

Jenny Inman SECOND PHOTO WEB“I’m going home to mine, so they need to go home to theirs,” she said. 

As a 9-1-1 telecommunicator, Inman said the job is hard because there rarely is a sense of closure. A call comes through, the telecommunicator takes it and makes sure the proper unit — police, fire, EMT or all three — are there to assist. What happens afterward is usually a mystery to her. 

But there are those occasions where she gets to have closure on a call. Like this one: in January, Inman met Karin Livingston, a Houston area resident who suffered a heart attack back in September 2023. Inman took the call from Livingston’s husband and carefully instructed him on administering CPR until an ambulance arrived. The two women hugged when they met in person. 

“I was working overtime and was told we were going to have this ceremony, so I walked down there,” Inman said. “They had said they were going to try and reach the patient, but I didn’t know if they had. When I walked in and looked around the room, I saw her and she was smiling, and I was like, ‘OMG! That’s her!’ She looked how I thought she would look.” 

“I gave her a hug, told her about my prayers for her, and then I gave her another hug. She didn’t have any deficiencies or anything. … She was just healthy,” Inman said. 

City Savvy attempted to contact Karin Livingston about meeting Inman and the experience but were unable to reach her. 

Inman said the thing she’s learned about being in emergency services is that you have a chain of survival. It takes teamwork. 

“I take the call for service, and I give it my all and my best, and then those guys come in here and you have to pass it on so that they can do their best, and they pass it on to the hospital, and so on,” she said. 

“It’s like when I ran track and field and there was a relay team. You have all these moving parts and we’re all on the same team. If one part of the chain fails, it’s not good. But we have that chance of making it if we can get CPR started,” she said. 

This team mindset philosophy has been Inman’s for nearly 20 years, when she started at the Comal County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office. She followed that with stints at Texas State University and the City of San Marcos Police Department before coming to the City of Houston 11 years ago. 

DSC00562. webHow she got started in this career is itself a story. Inman said she saw an advertisement in Comal County for the job, which at the time paid $10 an hour for what she believed at the time was a secretarial position. 

“I thought, ‘I could do that!’ And when I went there to start training, I was like, ‘what is this?!’” she said. “I kind of eased into it and I never looked back. I left for a few years to take care of my family, but I’ve been doing it almost constantly for 20 years.” 

Inman admitted she had never really thought of her job as a 9-1-1 telecommunicator as a career, but it turned out that way. 

“My daughter’s getting her master’s degree in public policy at the University of Houston. Whenever she writes a paper about first responders and trauma, she always puts it on the front: ‘My mom has been a first responder for 20 years, so I have extra insight into this field,’” she said. 

Inman said she has a routine once she gets to her desk: She says a prayer to herself, puts on her headphones and gets to work. Once she starts, her mindset is laser-focused on the task at hand. 

When it’s a call requiring medical attention, this type of focus is crucial. It’s about giving the right instructions at that moment, she said. 

“We have a set of questions that we ask. It’s a set of special instructions that are like pre-arrival instructions,” Inman said. “Once we go to that call type, it comes up with the instructions for CPR. I think we all know them by heart, but it’s good to have that backup where you can see.” 

Those instructions came in handy on the day she got the call from Livingston’s family. Karin Livingston was 52 years old at the time when she went into cardiac arrest. Inman said although her husband was a former Boy Scout, he couldn’t remember how to conduct CPR. She had to jog his memory on what to do, she said. 

“Sometimes it’s hard to get people started because it’s their wife or it’s their husband, and you have to try and encourage them to keep going by giving them a push or a nudge,” Inman said. 

The EMT’s arrived on the scene, and they shocked Livingston twice and used epinephrine before she finally responded. But it was her husband’s initial CPR actions that helped save her life. 

“Being laser-focused on getting CPR started and getting the blood moving around in the body is important. That was a hard thing for the husband to have to do to keep his wife alive,” Inman explained. 

“He did it though. He did everything I asked him to do. But you have to keep them going until the units can get there. I think it’s a very different experience. It’s what’s going to save their life.” 

Taking these types of calls daily is difficult, Inman admits. 

“You take these calls that are very hard to listen to, and it chips away at your heart over time.” 

But that makes her grateful when she’s finally able to meet a survivor. 

“Whenever I get a call like that, I say a little prayer to myself. When you do that and the person makes it, HOO-boy, that fills your heart up,” Inman said. “It’s like the grinch movie when your heart grows two sizes too big. That’s what it feels like, like your whole heart is filled up. 

“I think you have to have that every now and then because this is a very hard job. Have a little hope,” she said.