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February 27, 2009

Classic Good Samaritan



Last week, police officers on the midnight shift responded to a suicide in progress where a man tried to hang himself in the basement of a home.  The first officer on the scene found the unconscious man hanging from a homemade noose.  The officer immediately grabbed and lifted him up to release the pressure from his neck while his back-up officer cut through the noose.  After freeing him, they guided the man to the ground.  Because he was not breathing, one of the officers, Mike Nilles, administered CPR including mouth-to-mouth recessitation.  He continued the life saving efforts until the man vomited in the officer’s mouth (saving a life is far from pretty) and began to breathe on his own.

I went to the hospital to check on Officer Nilles and found him in the emergency room waiting for the nurse to administer a blood draw for an exposure kit that would advise in 24 hours whether he contracted H.I.V. or other diseases from the man he saved.

The officer knew the male was intoxicated and had a history of drug abuse when he chose to perform CPR.  He could have easily waited for the medics who were only minutes away and let them use a breathing apparatus.  Knowing that time was critical, however, he placed his own safety in jeopardy and acted without regard to his own life.  I asked Officer Nilles if he had a conscious thought about the risk to himself before he administered CPR and he said the only thing that went through his mind was, “We can save this one.”

This is just one of many heroic acts that police officers perform in their tour of duty that you never hear about.  It didn’t make headlines and there were no drums beating or crowds cheering as the man’s heart began to beat again.  The medics whisked the victim away and transported him to the hospital where he will recover and be given a second chance.  The officer quietly left the hospital ate the salami sandwich in his squad car that he packed with him, and went on to the next call.

Throughout my career, I’ve often thought of the classic story of the Good Samaritan when witnessing fellow police officers who have acted so bravely to save a life.  I’m confident everyone knows the parable where a man walking a dangerous road was beaten, robbed, and left to die.  A priest walked by the battered man and crossed to the other side of the street without stopping.  Another traveler came upon the injured man and continued on his journey as well.  The Good Samaritan found the man and stopped to render aid.  He dressed the man’s wounds and carried him to an inn where he used his own money to pay the innkeeper to watch over the man until he was well enough to leave.  The Priest and the traveler didn’t stop to help the man because they worried about what would happen to them on the dangerous road.  The Good Samaritan stopped to assist because he worried about what would happen to the man if he didn’t. 

Officer Mike Nilles never worried about what would happen to him as he breathed air into the lungs of the man.  He knew the man would die if he didn’t.  In defining moments like these, there is no pause for reflection or reasoning.  It is the same instinct and call to action that make police officers run towards gunfire while everyone else runs away.  It all comes from the same place of courage and nobility and it has few witnesses.

Thankfully, Officer Nilles did not contract any diseases as a result of his life saving efforts.  His actions demonstrate the character of which police officers are made and remind us all of the Good Samaritans dressed in blue that are willing to put others’ lives before their own.

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