FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota State University (NDSU) campus police officer Chris Potter was just doing his job. In this case, the job was helping to save a life.
Potter, who joined University Police last year after 19 years with the Fargo Police Department, was honored Oct. 16 by F-M Ambulance with the Medal of Merit for springing to action to help save an 18-year-old woman who collapsed into cardiac arrest on Sept. 25 during a dance class in downtown Fargo.
"This was one of those critical situations where it was life or death," Potter said. "All the circumstances came together to allow all of us who responded to make a difference that night. It's another reminder of why we got into this profession in the first place: to help out in times of crisis."
Potter was just finishing up with a traffic stop with another officer in downtown Fargo when a call came from dispatch that a woman was having a seizure at the Avalon Event Center. Just a block away at the time, Potter suggested the officers check out the call to see if they could assist until an emergency medical crew arrived.
Once on the scene, Potter and the other officer were alerted that the woman had stopped breathing. Potter took over chest compressions from a bystander as his partner relayed the severity of the situation to the emergency responders en route.
He continued chest compressions until fire and ambulance personnel arrived, and assisted with hooking up an automatic external defibrillator before turning over full control of the situation to paramedics. The woman's health is slowly improving and she has a chance for a full recovery, according to an email from the woman's father that Potter received several days after the incident.
"It really hit home for me because I have a daughter about the same age," Potter said. "That's all I could think about."
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time an NDSU police officer has received the award," added Bill Vandal, NDSU chief of police. "We are extremely proud of Officer Potter and his actions that evening. Officer Potter is a true professional and performs his responsibilities with passion. We are lucky to work with such a great team member."
Potter said the collaboration between all of the emergency responders that day helped save the woman's life.
"There is an amazing level of professionalism and cooperation between all of the Fargo-Moorhead agencies," Potter said. "I think we are really blessed here to have that. It was a team effort. There wasn't just one person responsible for the positive outcome."
NDSU is recognized as one of the nation's top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.