Detective Michael Cacciopolli says he probably wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for Linda Messo, a NICU nurse at the Richmond University Medical Center.
She was driving to work on July 29, sitting in traffic and mentally preparing for her 7 PM shift, when she noticed someone was in trouble. She had just crossed the Outerbridge Crossing in Colts Neck, NJ to see a car sitting on the shoulder of the highway.
“I never drive in the far-right lane of 440 when I get off the bridge. I’m always in the left lane because I have to get on the expressway. I totally believe if I wasn’t in that far right lane that I wouldn’t have seen the car; I wouldn’t have seen him on the floor,” Messo told local reporters.
Cacciopolli was on his way home after a long day at the beach when he started to feel sick to his stomach. He pulled off on the side of the road as he began vomiting, which only compounded the problem. He was aspirated as the vomit started traveling up into his lungs. His girlfriend was in the car with him when he fell on the ground unconscious. She started waving down cars to get someone’s attention.
Mesa saw what was happening and quickly pulled off onto the side of the road. She got out of the car and began performing CPR right away. “I could tell based on my assessment that he was in full blown cardiac arrest,” she said.
As a woman of faith, she says there was nothing coincidental about that day. As fate would have it, Mesa had just recertified her CPR training that morning as part of basic life support.
“I truly believe God put me there, and was with me that day. I’m a NICU nurse; I work with tiny babies — I’ve never performed CPR on an adult. I’ve only ever used my two fingers or my thumbs to do chest compressions. Everything lined up that day, even though this poor guy did suffer in that moment, everything that day happened for a reason,” she said.
The Port Authority police arrived after a few minutes, at which point Mesa asked them for an automated external defibrillator.
She shocked the patient three times and continued to apply CPR for another 20 minutes until his sinus rhythm returned to normal.
Cacciopolli was transported via ambulance to Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) in Princes Bay, where he was intubated and placed on a ventilator. He stayed there for several weeks before being moved to Glen Clove Hospital, where he recovered for another few weeks.
Now, he is back to his normal self and plans to return to active duty soon.
The neurologist at the Staten Island hospital said Mesa performed CPR perfectly so that Cacciopoll didn’t lose any motor functions.
He credits his recovery to her quick thinking. Mesa was recently honored by the Drug Enforcement Agency, which presented her with a special award.