Day 90: A nurse with the courage to help

This story from our local newspaper features the courage of a nurse who came to the aid of a stranger, without thinking twice about her own safety. Joni said “I was just glad to be there to be able to help”.

From the Sacramento Bee, Dec 2, 2011

Humble, embarrassed and a bit nervous, Joni Fletcher stood before television cameras Thursday morning and told the story of Nov. 13: How she began the evening at an auto mall, but soon found herself on a freeway shoulder, trying to save the life of a California Highway Patrol officer bleeding out from two gunshot wounds.

Officials from the CHP and Sutter Medical Center, where Fletcher has worked for 20 years as a cardiac cath lab nurse, arranged the gathering to praise that selfless, off-duty act, which likely contributed to the officer’s survival.

They lauded her as “courageous.” She balked.

“I was just doing my job I do every day,” said the petite, 52-year-old blonde.

Fletcher said she had gone with her husband to buy a car at Elk Grove’s Lasher Auto Group that night. They were standing inside, waiting for financing, when she noticed a CHP officer had made a traffic stop on southbound Highway 99, just outside the dealership.

Nothing out of the ordinary – until shots rang out. Several salesmen ran inside, yelling at people to get down.

Customers were directed to the back of the store until it appeared safe. Once outside, Fletcher said she saw an officer lying on the ground at the side of the highway and ran to an 8-foot, chain-link fence separating them.

She asked if he was hurt. I’ve been shot, he said. She asked if she could help. Yes, he said.

With the help of her husband, Fletcher – wearing Ugg boots – scaled the wobbly fence. Seeing what she described as “a lot” of blood coming from the officer’s wounds, she tried to stem the blood loss.

He had been hit in the wrist and the groin. She was pressing so hard, and it hurt so much, the officer passed out.

“I told him that I was sorry,” Fletcher recalled, “but I thought something needed to be done.”

The nurse tended to the patient for nearly 20 minutes until paramedics arrived – even as officers shot and killed the suspected shooter less than 100 feet from her.

She was never afraid, she said. “I didn’t even think about a secure scene. I was focused.”

Paramedics eventually whisked away the officer, and Fletcher was left to climb back over the fence and back to life as she knew it. They got the new car that night. But she did not get sleep.

She has not seen that officer again, though she said she would like to.

“I was just glad to be there to be able to help,” Fletcher said.

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