Iowa police officer awarded for saving man suffering heart attack
Officer Nikki Hotz wasn't supposed to be working the day she responded to a call about an unresponsive man
By Kat Russell
MARION, Iowa — It started out as a normal day.
Marion Police officer Nikki Hotz was sitting in her cruiser on Nov. 1 behind MercyCare Urgent Care, near Seventh Avenue and Katz Drive in Marion, catching up on some paperwork when the call came in from a woman reporting that her husband was unresponsive and possibly having a heart attack at the Marion Village mobile home park on Midway Drive.
Hotz wasn’t supposed to be working that shift, but it was lucky she was.
The mobile home park was only about a quarter mile from Hotz’s location, so she radioed that she was responding and high-tailed it to the scene.
“Because I was so close, I was the first one to arrive on the scene,” she said. “When I got there, I knocked on the door and inside I could hear the man’s wife yelling.”
When she went in, Hotz said, the man was lying on the couch in the living room. He had no pulse and was not breathing.
“At that point my training just kicked in and I started doing what I needed to do,” she said.
Hotz cleared some space and moved the man from the couch to the floor. Then she started CPR.
Within about a minute, Hotz said Marion firefighters arrived and took over compressing the man’s chest and ventilating him.
“That’s when I pulled out my knife and began cutting his clothes off so the medics could do their work,” Hotz said.
Shortly after, Hotz said an ambulance arrived and with it the Lucas Chest Compression System, a machine designed to deliver uninterrupted chest compressions at a consistent rate and pressure.
“That machine is one the biggest advantages we have in medical emergencies,” Hotz said. “It saves on fatigue for the first responders, it frees up hands to tend to the rest of the patient’s needs, and it delivers timed and properly pressured compressions to the patient.”
The man was quickly loaded into the ambulance and taken to St. Luke’s. Eventually, Hotz got word that he regained his pulse and was being treated for what was believed to be a heart attack.
“That’s when all the adrenaline faded and the emotions kicked in,” Hotz said. “I had never had to perform CPR on someone before, and I really wanted him to be OK. Afterwards, I just went back to my car and prayed for him to recover and cried.”
The man did recover and Hotz was able to visit with him at his home on Thanksgiving.
“He’s amazing,” she said. “He’s a bit of a jokester, he’s got a great sense of humor, and he’s eager to get back to living his life.”
Looking back on her experience, Hotz said she is grateful she was able to help the man, but she didn’t do it alone.
“It was a total team effort,” she said. “So many people had a hand in saving him. From his wife calling 911 to the dispatcher getting that information out quickly so I and fire and EMS were able to get there as fast as we did. The Marion Fire Department, the paramedics with Area Ambulance, the doctors and nurses at the hospital, we all worked together to help him.”
Last week, during a Marion City Council meeting, Hotz was awarded the Lifesaving Award for her part in saving the man.
Marion Police Chief Joseph McHale said the award was given in recognition of Hotz’s ability to respond under pressure and do what needed to be done.
“It’s important to recognize the efforts of our officers,” McHale said. “It reinforces the behavior and the officer’s response, and it’s our way of recognizing that officer for their courage and their ability to respond and act in stressful situations.”
Officer Hotz has been with the police department for about five years, McHale said. She is currently assigned as a patrol officer and was recently assigned as the department’s bomb tech.
“She is energetic and passionate about the work we do,” he said. “She’s a patrol officer now, but I see the potential for leadership in her future. She is dedicated to the agency and the job, and she does a really good job for us.”
For Hotz, Nov. 1 was a culmination of all her training — from the baby sitter CPR class she took as a teenager, to her military training to her training as an officer — all of which came back to her in that moment.
“The most rewarding award is knowing that I was part of this effort to help bring this man back and get him back to his family in time for the holidays,” she said. “As first responders — whether you’re police or fire or EMS or a dispatcher — all of us want to save a life. We all go to these calls, and we see more losses than saves. I’m just grateful this one was a save.”
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