Since losing consciousness after going into cardiac arrest while on a treadmill at New Canaan Police Department headquarters in May, Officer Jeff Pollock said he’s had many months to reflect on how different life would have been for others close to him, had two fellow officers and four members of New Canaan Emergency Medical Services members not jumped into action.
He’s thought about his parents, sisters, wife and—perhaps, most of all—young son and daughter.
“What would they do without their daddy?” Pollock told more than 100 people, including his family, gathered in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School for a special NCPD ceremony. “They have such a long way to go, so much to learn, so many things to experience, so many milestones to achieve? Would they be able to do it without me?”
Thanks to six people that Pollock called “the heroes that saved my life”—Officers Rex Sprosta and Tom Callinan, and EMS volunteers Russ Kimes, Liam Bowers, Zach Harbage and Wes Yilanes—no one will have to know.
Police Chief Leon Krolikowski presented the officers with the department’s Medical/Lifesaving Award for their swift action and presented special plaques also to the four medical services personnel in recognition of their actions.
The Medical Service Award is presented “to any member of the police department for an act performed in the line of duty which, through disregard of personal safety or prompt and alert actions results in saving a life or preventing serious physical injury.”
Of the New Canaan EMS, the chief said the organization is “mostly volunteer and is made up of an extremely well trained and professional team that provides expert medical care to our town.”
“We are most grateful that these folks answered the call on this fateful day and helps our officers save a brother officer,” he said.
On that day—Saturday, May 19—Pollock was taking the department’s fitness test when he loss consciousness and fell off of the treadmill, Krolikowski said.
Thankfully, “Officer Sprosta was close by,” the chief said.
“Officer Sprosta called for help and Officer Callinan came to assist his brother officer. While they were assessing Jeff’s condition, Jeff stopped responding, lost consciousness and did not have a pulse. Officer Callinan started CPR and initiated chest compressions while Officer Sprosta prepared the defibrillator. Jeff was shocked three times by the AED before he regained consciousness.”
Krolikowski continued, saying that the EMS personnel “arrived on scene and provided two additional shocks in order to get Jeff’s heart rate back to normal.”
“Subsequently, Jeff was transported by [ambulance] to Norwalk Hospital for additional treatment,” the chief said. “Every year, our offices respond to hundreds of medical calls, sometime save lives, but it is exceptionally rare for our officers to save the life of a brother officer. I am certain that Rex, Tom and Jeff have a bond for life and on this day in May the thin blue line was a fine shade of blue.”
Pollock said he thought not only of this immediate and extended family, but also of his friends (“Some at the police department swear I have none, I actually do have a few”) and also of “my heroes, Rex, Tom, Zach, Wes, Russ and Liam.”
“How would they cope, how would they be able to go back to work again, how would they deal with the guilt of that day if things went a different way?” he said. “Thankfully, today those are all just what-ifs. One thing that’s clear is that a lot more than just my life was saved that day.”
Pollock cited heart attack survivor statistics and said he’s part of a 1 percent group that recovers without lingering complications. In a lighter moment that drew laughter from those gathered, Pollock noted that he now is officially “a one-percenter.”
“We are in New Canaan, so ‘one percent’ has a different meaning here,” he said with a smile. “Call me a ‘one-percenter, maybe not in the normal terms, but I’m happy however it may be.”
During the ceremony, four local spiritual leaders also received their badges as police chaplains. They are the Rev. Daniel Hickman of Community Baptist Church in New Canaan, the Rev. Eric Fjeldal of the United Methodist Church of New Canaan, the Rev. Stephen Chapin Garner of the Congregational Church of New Canaan and the Rev. Robert Kinnally of St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church.
Hickman and Fjeldal led the gathering in invocation and benediction prayers, respectively. During the invocation, Hickman said, “Celebrate those who are dedicated to the life’s work that they are called to do. Bless this police department, officers and all who attend, those who serve this great community of New Canaan, continue to throw arms of protection around about us and keep them safe from harm and danger as we go about our diligent task.”
Those in attendance included First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Selectman Kit Devereaux, Police Commissioners Sperry DeCew and Paul Foley, Town Councilman Sven Englund and Emergency Management Director Mike Handler.
Krolikowski said that police chaplains serve officers in a number of ways, whether they’re called upon to assist in death notifications and with supporting victims in times of crisis, visiting sick or injured personnel as a resource for counseling and their families, and as a liaison with other clergy.
“And their prayers are always appreciated,” Krolikowski said. “Police work is often under-appreciated, and can rapidly shift from long periods of boredom to moments of genuine fear. Having a police chaplain on your team to talk about this, not as a fellow cop but as a genuine listener, can be invaluable.”