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Forsyth 911 dispatcher recovering after life-threatening fall
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Chad Latonis knows how quickly life can change.

Around 11 a.m. on Feb. 8, the former Sgt. Deputy Sheriff at the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office was standing about 25 feet from his wife, Melissa Latonis, when he heard a thud.

“I heard her hit [the floor] and her eyes were fixed open and she was foaming some at the mouth,” he recalls. “I wiped it away but saw she had no more chest rise, so I gave her a shallow breath and nothing, so I gave her a deep breath and started [performing] CPR and the third time she spit up.

“My business partner called 911 and fire and EMS came and took over with CPR.”

His wife, a Forsyth County 911 dispatcher for more than 13 years, was rushed to the hospital and is now recovering in Athens Regional Medical Center, though she is waiting for a bed at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

The fall, her husband said, was unexpected — it was likely the force of hitting her head on the pavement that almost killed her.

“It was a standing fall,” he said. “There was no aneurysm or anything. She went from standing to [getting] CPR to being in a coma and on a ventilator to emergency neurosurgery — a piece of her skull was removed to relieve the bleeding and pressure. She’s progressing now, but it’s very hard.”

Despite spending so many years in law enforcement, Latonis said he never expected to have to care for his wife like this.

“Life can change real fast,” he said, “and it’s very emotional. This woman is my world, as any spouse should be, but what a way to remind you of it. Aside from the emotional [aspect,] financially, I went from OK to broke overnight.”

He currently runs a business and said though he has experience in law enforcement that the fall has changed the way he thinks about his former — and his wife’s current — career.

“Thank god we work in communities that we work in,” he said. “You realize how important her job is and the calls she makes to get people [like her] help. I thank God [she’s alive], but this shows [the importance] of her being a dispatcher.”

The couple has two daughters, a 21-year-old and a 9-year-old.

Latonis said while his older daughter has been by her mother’s side, he is thankful people in the community care and have offered support for their youngist.

“Literally, I can’t even leave [Melissa’s] side; I’m her healthcare provider,” Latonis said. “Emotionally and financially this is hard, and my daughter’s teacher texted me Tuesday saying she would get valentines for her to have at school. I just can’t keep track of everything when [I’m] always with [Melissa].”

Latonis said he expects to stay by his wife’s side for the next two to three months, which causes him to worry about finances, he said.
“If I don’t work, I’m not making money [and] I’ve got hard choices to make,” he said. “I think I’m going to go back into law enforcement to ensure I have medical benefits. I’m worried about how long she will be out of work.”

He said he knows his wife will want to get back to helping people but needs to recover first.

“She believes in the greater good. Her father was [a] 36-year retired San Diego police officer,” Latonis said. “She’s a lifeline to [me], her dearest friends and those in the community.”