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Chicago police sergeant who saved woman’s life at Hot Chocolate 15k receives bravery award

Sgt. Michael Nowacki performed CPR on Stephanie Inglesby, then finished the race and proposed to his girlfriend.

Stephanie Inglesby looks on as Chicago Police Sgt. Mike Nowacki is honored by the Chicago Police Memorial Fund during a news conference at the Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union, Tuesday morning, Feb. 11, 2020. Nowacki saved Inglesby’s life last year while running the Hot Chocolate 15k in full gear.
Stephanie Inglesby looks on as Chicago Police Sgt. Michael Nowacki is honored Tuesday by the Chicago Police Memorial Fund. Nowacki saved Inglesby’s life last year while he was running the Hot Chocolate 15k in full gear.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, wasn’t the first time Chicago Police Sgt. Mike Nowacki saved a life.

“This is, I think, my fourth life-saving award — third or fourth,” Nowacki said, answering a question, not boasting.

The CPD SWAT unit member has dealt with gunshot wounds, suicide attempts — but, he said, saving Stephanie Inglesby’s life late last year was the sweetest moment.

“November 3rd, when I met Stephanie, is probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my career,” Nowacki said, talking to reporters Tuesday after receiving an award from the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.

Stephanie Inglesby hugs Chicago Police Sgt. Mike Nowacki before the start of a during a news conference at the Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union, Tuesday morning, Feb. 11, 2020. Nowacki was honored by the Chicago Police Memorial Fund for saving Inglesby’s life last year while running the Hot Chocolate 15k in full gear.
Stephanie Inglesby hugs Chicago Police Sgt. Mike Nowacki before the start of a during a news conference at the Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union, Tuesday morning, Feb. 11, 2020. Nowacki was honored by the Chicago Police Memorial Fund for saving Inglesby’s life last year while running the Hot Chocolate 15k in full gear.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

This may be a familiar story: Nowacki was the guy running the charity Hot Chocolate 15K and dressed in 50 pounds of SWAT team gear. He’d planned to propose to his girlfriend, Officer Erin Gubala, at the race’s end. Life got in the way. Near the finish line, he heard people screaming for medical aid after a woman had collapsed nearby.

Nowacki and a firefighter from Indiana jumped in and performed CPR until paramedics and an ambulance arrived. About three months later, that woman — Inglesby — has almost fully recovered and recently returned to work in sales.

At Tuesday’s ceremony, she called Nowacki her “angel.”

“The fact that it happened at the race amazes me; some type of higher power was at play then,” said Inglesby, who was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, which causes swelling in the walls of the arteries — a condition that likely would have killed her without Nowacki’s swift assistance. She spent 15 days in the hospital.

“What you did for me and my family ... I can never thank you enough,” she told Nowacki.

“My pleasure,” he said, giving her a hug.

Nowacki has become a bit of a celebrity. He’s been all over Facebook and Twitter. He was recently a guest, along with his fiancee [they’re getting married “around Halloween”], on The Kelly Clarkson Show.

He’s not, he said, seeking publicity for himself.

“My teammates have done a lot of heroic things — truly heroic things — and have not, unfortunately, been recognized for it in the media,” he said.

The admiration, it seems, is mutual.

“He’s a jump-into-action kind of guy,” said fellow SWAT Team member Officer Mike Pantano. “And he’s very, very smart — especially with the medical stuff. So he’s who I would want by me if I were ever hurt — for sure.”

Chicago Police Sgt. Mike Nowacki was honored by the Chicago Police Memorial Fund for saving a woman’s life last year while running the Hot Chocolate 15k in full gear, during a news conference at the Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union, Tuesday morning, Feb. 11, 2020.
Chicago Police Sgt. Michael Nowacki was honored Tuesday by the Chicago Police Memorial Fund for saving a woman’s life while running the Hot Chocolate 15k in full gear.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Stephanie Inglesby speaks about Chicago Police Sgt. Mike Nowacki during a news conference at the Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union, Tuesday morning, Feb. 11, 2020. Nowacki was honored by the Chicago Police Memorial Fund for saving Inglesby’s life last year while running the Hot Chocolate 15k in full gear.
Stephanie Inglesby speaks about Chicago Police Sgt. Mike Nowacki during a news conference Tuesday at the Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union. Nowacki was honored for saving Inglesby’s life last year while running the Hot Chocolate 15k in full gear.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times