You may have seen the story in the MDJ recently about the 16-year veteran saving the life of an 11-month-old child who was reported as not breathing and unresponsive. That alone makes him a hero.
What I didn’t know until I talked to him this week is that this was the ninth time in his career he has been credited with saving someone’s life while on duty, including three infants and a fellow police officer. I found that extraordinary.
“I guess I’ve just been in the right place at the right time,” he says modestly.
In the most recent case, the call for help was relayed shortly before midnight by the Smyrna police dispatcher to another zone, but Officer Nesbit said he happened to be closer to the location and decided he could get there the quickest.
He said he was not aware of the circumstances until he arrived on scene at the Glendale Place apartment complex. All he knew was that a person was down. The natural assumption was that it was an adult. He came up on a “chaotic situation” with people milling around the complex and him not quite sure what was happening.
“Things were pretty emotional,” he remembers.
“It was at that time that the child’s grandmother ran up and handed me this baby,” he says. The mother was on the phone with the dispatch office.
“I took the child outside. Her lips were blue and she was non-responsive. I could discern only a faint pulse,” Nesbit says. “I put her on the trunk of my vehicle and began to administer rescue breathing. After about five or six breaths, I noticed she had begun shallow breathing.”
His quick response and cool actions had saved a life. And, remember, this was his ninth one.
“My dad is a doctor,” Nesbit says, “and he kids me, saying I’ve saved almost as many lives as he has.”
I asked the officer how he felt as he got back in his patrol car after the experience. He said, “I thought to myself that I had just made a difference. When I have to arrest someone or write a ticket or a warning, I wonder if I am making a difference in that person’s life. In this case, I know I did.”
I asked Nesbit about his background. He says he was an “Army brat” and lived all over, but mostly in Germany. After his own stint in the Army, Nesbit came to Georgia to be near his parents, now living in Woodstock. After time as a parole officer in Statesboro, his mother informed him of an opportunity available in the Smyrna police department. He took it, and 16 years later, he is still here.
“This is the longest I have ever lived in any one place,” he says.
There are at least nine people who have to be grateful that he has. I suspect his colleagues in the police department and those associated with Smyrna city government would agree, as well.
You get the idea talking to Nesbit that while he is proud of what he has done, he keeps it in context of the fact this is just part of his job. A police officer’s work is often thankless and dangerous as well. You never know what the next call will bring. I had one officer tell me that the difference in his job and most others is that when he leaves for work and tells his spouse goodbye, they both know there is a chance he won’t be coming home at the end of his shift.
So far, 59 police officers have died in the line of duty this year in the U.S. Last year, the number was 105. With every traffic stop, there is the potential of some nutcase deciding to shoot it out with the police.
Are there bad cops? Absolutely. There are also bad bankers, bad doctors, bad lawyers, bad plumbers and even a few columnists that aren’t so hot. (Present company excluded, of course.)
Smyrna Master Patrol Officer Darnell Nesbit is a reminder that police work is not always about traffic stops and drug arrests and duking it out with the bad guys. Sometimes, it is about an 11-month-old baby who was all but dead until you put it on the trunk of your patrol car and calmly breathed new life into its little body. Sometimes, it is about modest and matter-of-fact people doing what most of us couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Sometimes, it is about heroes.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb