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21st Mar 2019

7 Times Mobile Phones Saved Lives


It might seem the most unlikely of heroes, but it turns out that the mobile phone has saved the day on more than one occasion.

There are no doubt thousands of stories of how having a mobile phone helped someone get help when they needed it. Before the days when we had phones with us non stop, a dangerous situation could easily prove fatal. But having the ability to connect instantly with emergency services, contact friends and family, or even call.

The convenience of having a telephone always within reach has enabled many, many people to get help when they need it.

But these stories don’t always make headlines. Being able to call Triple Zero is a lifesaving ability, but today it is commonplace.

The stories that do make headlines, however, are the surprising ones. The stories where it wasn’t only about a 000 phone call, but where a mobile device went just a bit further towards saving a life or executing a rescue. These stories involve apps, secret phone calls, large-scale communications, and even the physical protection a phone can sometimes offer. Read on to discover 7 incredible times that mobile phones helped to save lives in our world.

Abducted woman uses mobile phone to escape

It’s most people’s worst nightmare: being abducted or kidnapped. This happened to one woman but fortunately, she had her phone on her and was able to think quickly in an urgent situation.

Back in 2003, an Oklahoma woman named Shannon Haight was abducted from a parking lot near her work. A strange man asked her for directions to a place she’d never heard of. Haight said she didn’t know and suggested the man ask a security guard. When she turned her back, he grabbed her from behind and wrestled her into the boot of his car.

Luckily, Haight still had her purse in hand. Keeping her mind fairly calm, she was able to dial the phone number of her boyfriend, Mark. He answered and she began to tell him that she had been abducted and was locked in a pitch-black boot. She was able to identify the appearance of the car she was in, too. Mark called 911 from another phone and passed all her information onto the police. They were on their way.

At some point, Haight’s abductor stopped the car, opened the boot, and told her to turn over. As she rolled, he spotted her phone and grabbed it. Fortunately, the police already had the information they needed, and they were in pursuit.

The chase ended within an hour, and though it ended in a crash, Haight was unharmed aside from a few scratches and a twisted ankle.

She has her presence of mind---and her mobile phone---to thank for writing a very different ending to this story.

Mobile phone stops bullet

Have you ever thought that your mobile phone might save your life all on its own? This is a phenomenon that has actually occurred several times over the years when would-be gunshot victims were saved from bullets by their own mobile phones.

A convenience store clerk in Florida narrowly avoided being fatally shot in the chest. After a thief broke into the shop and demanded money from the clerk, the thief shot at the clerk as he left. Were it not for his mobile phone tucked into the chest pocket of his shirt, the man would have been shot in the chest. Instead, the phone absorbed the impact of the bullet, stopping it from penetrating the man’s body. The man is alive, thanks to his mobile phone.

In another instance, a police officer was saved by the same stroke of fortune. Although the officer was shot by a criminal he was pursuing (in both his legs and his chest), the mobile phone inside his shirt pocket stopped a bullet that would have entered his heart.

Phones continue to save lives in Timor-Leste

In some nations, having a phone means more than just easy communication. It can truly be a lifeline.

Here’s a story in which mobile phones are saving lives on a large scale.

In the nation of Timor-Leste, pregnant women are at high risk of losing their lives during or after delivering their newborn children. This is because of the highly rural population in an economically struggling country; dependable health care isn’t always right on a woman’s doorstep. Timor-Leste has an extremely high incidence of maternal death as well as infant death.

To deal with this issue, one initiative has begun using mobile phones to help make a massive difference in the lives of these women----perhaps even saving them. The project, called Liga Inan or “Mobile Moms”, connects expectant mothers in rural areas with health professionals via their mobile devices. Women enrolled in the program receive regular text messages, providing them with valuable information on prenatal health as well as guidance for caring for newborn babies. There is also a feature through which women can request a callback from their midwife or other health professional. This provides them with the opportunity to gain vital knowledge for their own wellbeing and also gives them the chance to build trust and rapport with their medical professionals. When the time comes for the baby to be born, the women can easily get in touch with their midwife, ensuring they have the assistance for a safe, healthy delivery.

Mobile phones help in large-scale emergencies, like the Haiti earthquake 2010

Mobile phones can save lives during natural disasters, too.

In 2010, an earthquake in Haiti claimed the lives of roughly 160,000 people. For those who survived, the outcome was devastating, with homes destroyed, infrastructure obliterated and lives forever changed.

Mobile phones were a lifeline during the period of rescue and rebuilding. Only two days after the earthquake occurred, a humanitarian news service started the first-ever Emergency Information Service (EIS). This provided free SMS messages with practical advice and gave them a way to report their own problems. Thousands of people used the service to report missing persons and food issues and share information about shelter problems. Those who were injured could receive information via SMS on what hospitals were open and available to treat them. And in a few cases, the EIS actually helped rescue trapped survivors, some of whom were caught amongst the rubble and wreckage from the earthquake.

An app helps a man survive being trapped after earthquake

In that same Haitian disaster, a mobile phone helped a man who was trapped beneath rubble---but in a very different way.

A man named Dan Woolley from Colorado, was in Haiti filming a documentary video with a friend when the earthquake struck. He was buried under the wreckage of Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince. While trapped, Woolley’s iPhone helped to save his life.

Woolley had suffered various injuries during the quake, including a compound fracture in one of his legs. He was also bleeding profusely from a head wound. He knew that treating these issues could mean the difference between life and death. Remembering that he had downloaded some information from a first aid app on his mobile phone, he opened it up to seek out the information. This app was actually focused on the treatment of wounds, and it helped Woolley know exactly what to do to take care of his injuries.

After wrapping his head and securing his leg, Woolley was concerned that he might pass out from shock. So he made further use of his phone, setting its alarm to go off approximately every 20 minutes to keep him awake.

These tools helped Woolley to survive until he was finally rescued, some 65 hours later. In one article, Woolley was quoted as saying his iPhone was “was like a high-tech version of a Swiss Army knife that enabled me to treat my own injuries, track time, stay awake and stay alive." No doubt, the mobile phone can definitely be a powerful resource.

Toddler uses a smartphone to save dad’s life

Sometimes we complain that our children are growing up surrounded by technology, but in one case, this may have saved a man’s life.

In Virginia, USA, a toddler whose father was suffering from a stroke, used smartphone technology to get help.

The little girl Molly was just 3 years old, and at home with her dad when something went wrong. Her dad was lying on the ground, experiencing a stroke, and even at 3, Molly knew something was wrong.

Her dad’s mobile phone was lying nearby, so Molly used FaceTime to call her mother, who was at work. She told her mom that “daddy got sick” and showed him with the phone’s camera where he was lying on the ground. Emergency services were called and the man was rushed to hospital. He had a critical artery blocked by a clot in his brain, and doctors were able to remove the clot and save him.

All thanks to his smartphone and his quick-thinking, tech-savvy toddler, Molly, who they call a “hero.”

Severe health issue noticed in mobile phone photo

In this story, it’s a toddler’s life that was saved.

In 2015, an Illinois mom named Julie Fitzgerald noticed something strange about one of her 2-year old son’s eyes. Avery had some unusual spots in his left eye, visible when he was looking into a bright light.

Concerned about this, Julie researched online and found something that gave her pause. One Facebook story she read suggested that a photo taken with a flash could reveal cancer within a person’s eye. With the flash, the eye’s pupil would show up white. Julie grabbed her mobile phone to take a photo, feeling sick to her stomach about what she might find.

Sure enough, when Julie snapped the photo, the result showed her son Avery with a pure white pupil. Upon seeing this, she brought him to the doctor. They found that Avery did indeed have a rare form of cancer called retinoblastoma. Nearly 75% of Avery’s eye was covered in tumours. Fortunately, though doctor’s had to remove Avery’s eye in surgery, they were able to avoid any further spread of cancer.

How Your Phone Could Help You in an Emergency

Could your phone save your life one day? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • It’s a good idea to keep your phone charged whenever possible. Consider bringing battery backups with you regularly, or leaving them (fully charged) in your car or in your backpack/purse.
  • Keep GPS tracking enabled on your phone (and your family members’ phones). This can enable emergency services to find your location---even if you don’t know where you are when calling---and can have a surprising number of other possible uses in urgent situations.
  • Learn what safety features your mobile phone has. iPhones have an SOS feature that will dial the local emergency number wherever you are. Similarly, Samsung Galaxy phones have an SOS Messages feature that can send an emergency alert to three chosen contacts. Read more about those features here.
  • Keep a spare mobile phone in your first aid or emergency kit. In the event that you have no power in an emergency situation at home, this device will be ready to assist you in communicating with others.

Ultimately, it’s always a good idea to have a mobile phone with you, giving you that vital connection to others---and to help when you need it.

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