Letisha Ghanbari has answered emergency calls* for OnStar for more than six years. Her Emergency Medical Dispatch training allows her to help Members experiencing allergic reactions, heart attacks, low blood sugar and more. And while no two days are the same, some certainly stand out more than others. Such as the time Letisha answered a call for a situation she was trained for but never expected — childbirth. And not just once, but twice. She also didn’t realize that these calls would lead to her winning the 2016 Dispatcher of the Year Award — one of the highest honors in her profession.
We interviewed Letisha to hear more about her role as an Emergency Advisor and how those special deliveries changed her life at OnStar.
Tell us how you became an OnStar Advisor.
I was managing a retail store and decided I wanted something different. A few people had told me great things about OnStar, so I came here. It was supposed to be a temporary thing, but I guess I can’t call nine years temporary.
I guess not! So how long have you been an Advisor?
Since May 7, 2007. I started in Member Sales and then went to Emergency. I’ve been there for six years now.
Why the move to Emergency?
I was actually afraid of being an Emergency Advisor at first. I ran from it. But one of my supervisors came downstairs and told me it would be a good idea and that I would like it because I am good with high-pressure situations. And I haven’t looked back since.
There’s the unexpected, and then there’s childbirth
A baby delivery — I bet that was shocking.
It was definitely a reality check, and I told myself, “You’re actually going to help deliver a baby on the side of the road.” We had talked about it and role-played it in training, but to actually hear someone going through the motions on the side of the road, you’re thinking, “This poor woman! Of all the places to have a baby.”
Tell us about it.
That call was eight minutes from start to finish. It was the very call that we are trained for. Using OnStar's two-Advisor EMD system, my partner brought me on the line to give medical instruction. When I got on the call and we started talking, I knew she was in labor. She had contractions and it progressed just as we thought it would. She delivered with us right on the line. They didn’t have a shoelace, so I instructed the father to tie the umbilical cord with a phone charger.
How did you feel after it was done?
Once your nerves start to settle you think about everything — like her in the hospital and the baby. Because we didn’t really know the outcome or if she had a boy or girl.
Was it hard to put personal feelings aside?
I find it’s a lot easier for me because I have children, so I can put myself in her position and think about what’s in her best interest. I think about what I wanted to hear when going through my hard time.
So the delivery calls hit close to home for you.
Absolutely. Especially because I had a hard time having my own children. The first mother I helped was having complications, so that hit me really close. So I thought about when I had my children. It was a really personal connection for me.
There has to be a lot of emotion involved with these sorts of calls.
We deal with a lot of stressful emergency situations. But this gives you the warm fuzzies. It’s the ideal positive situation when everything works out because it’s one of the few exciting emergency outcomes that we get. They’ll never forget you, that’s for sure.
Dressing for success can include a headset
When did you learn that you were nominated as Dispatcher of the Year?
I had just come back from a girl’s trip, and my operations manager is really good at her poker face. I walked in her office, and all the senior management team was there. They told me they nominated my delivery call and that I won.
It didn’t register at first. I just thought they meant I was nominated. So I kept asking when we would find out. Once it clicked, my first thought was “What am I going to wear?!”
How did you celebrate?
It was hard because I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody. I told my family and spent a lot of time shopping. When I got there I was treated like a celebrity. I had a driver! People wanted pictures with me. It was great.
What did it mean to you to win it?
It was a huge surprise and a huge accomplishment. Everything I had learned has paid off. It’s the ultimate award for me. I’m an A-type personality — I have to try and aim for the best. And this is like winning the Oscar in my industry. It was exciting.
What do you shoot for now?
I’m now an Emergency trainer, so my goal is to have one of my students win it.
So aside from delivering babies, has being an Advisor changed you at all?
Absolutely. I feel like I grew up with OnStar. I transitioned from teenager to adult — I bought a house, got married, had a baby. Everything happened while I’ve been here, so I have personal ties to it. It’s like a second home to me, like a family.
Letisha calls the Oshawa Call Center in Canada her home, but OnStar has more than 4,500 Advisors all over the world. You can meet them here and get to know the roles they play, aside from delivering babies.