It was New Year’s Eve, and Bedminster Township Police Officer Thomas Finnerty jumped into action when a call came in of an unconscious male who had stopped breathing and had no pulse—and for his service in saving the man’s life, Finnerty was recently awarded the Life Saving Medal.
Finnerty received the award at a recent township committee meeting.
“I was at headquarters when the call came in, and I immediately dropped what I was doing and went to the residence,” Finnerty said of the call that came in around 3:30 p.m. Dec. 31.
When he arrived at the residence, Finnerty said, he was met by the wife of the victim.
“You can imagine, [she] was screaming in terror and brought me to her husband, who was upstairs in the bedroom lying on the floor unconscious and not breathing,” he said. “His airway was also obstructed.”
Finnerty said he immediately turned the victim on his side and cleared what he could of his airway so he could get some oxygen in him through the oxygen tank. And after checking the man’s pulse and his breathing—and getting no response in either—Finnerty began chest compressions.
“The way we are trained here, at least for me, I get tunnel vision and concentrate on the task at hand,” he said. “I did three rounds of chest compressions and oxygenated him the best I could.”
“It all happened so fast that I didn’t even remember doing them, but I did,” he added.
Just after that, Finnerty said, the Somerset EMS 803, the township’s paid rescue squad during the day, arrived on the scene and two EMTs sprang into action.
“These two guys from the Somerset EMS 803 had their superman shirts on that day,” he said. “I have worked here in Bedminster Township for going on 29 years, and I have never seen two men so hell bent on getting the victim to come back around after shocking him four times with the defibrillator.”
From there, Finnerty said, the Somerset Mobile Intensive Care Unit arrived on scene to take over.
“They as well were on their a-game, and started the advanced care that they do such as intravenous shots and [such],” he said. “There were two female paramedics that day from Somerset MICU who were also wearing their superlady shirts that day.”
Finnerty said police officers receive 40 hours of first aid training, and all are certified with the debrillators. From there, he said, they go through many scenarios during the training, which officers have to pass in order to move on.
“It’s nice to know that all the long classroom time is not a waste, and that the training does actually pay off,” he said.
But, Finnerty said, there is no real way to prepare for a circumstance like this.
“I don’t think you can mentally prepare for this, you just react and get it done,” said Finnerty, who said he received another life saving award several years ago. “But while you’re driving to the call, your chest is beating and you wish you had taken the day off.”
A Readington Township native, Finnerty said he has always been in the area, and always wanted to remain.
“I’m a local boy, grew up in Readington Township most of my life, and always loved the area and wanted to stick around as well,” he said.
Currently, Finnerty said, he lives in Hunterdon County with his family.
Finnerty said he is honored to receive the award, but it is really all about helping another person.
“It’s nice to be noticed once in a while for something positive we do here,” he said. “As nerve wracking as [this call] sounds, there’s still nothing I would rather do for a job. The bottom line is the victim is home with his family, and what’s better than that?”