Sponsor: People’s United Bank
Quick action, compassionate response and teamwork undoubtedly saved a life when four people worked together to help a suicidal person poised to jump from the top of a parking garage at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport. Joe Halkowicz, RN, a Nurse Manager in the Emergency Department of St. Vincent’s, was in the main lobby October 24 of last year when he heard the security alarm indicating trouble on the roof of the visitor’s parking and rushed to help. When he got there, he found the hospital’s Director of Safety and Security, Joe Laveneziana, and fellow Nurse Manager Scott Brennan, RN standing at a safe distance from a knife-wielding man threatening to jump from the ledge of the garage.
Laveneziana was trying to establish a conversation with the man on the ledge. Brennan had called 911. Halkowicz joined the two men in forming a half-circle 10 to 15 feet from the man. Halkowicz soon began to establish a rapport with the man. He convinced him to drop his knife. While they built trust, the trio was able to move closer to the potential jumper, allowing Brennan to kick away the knife. Halkowicz told the man not to worry about him getting closer, since he was afraid of heights himself. “That helped to relax him a bit,” Halkowicz said. “I think he almost smiled.”
Halkowicz convinced the now seated man to swing one leg over the wall of the garage. They soon coaxed him from the ledge. “We exchanged names and shook hands,” Halkowicz said. “I’ll never forget it.”
Dr. Abdelmonim Affany, Unit Chief of the psychiatric department, arrived at the scene to assist. The man agreed to go with them into the hospital for evaluation.
Halkowicz visited the man a week later and reported that he was doing well. “He was actually a great guy.”
The nominator for the team’s recognition writes, “There is no question this team of professionals was successful at establishing that all-important bond of trust with a fellow human being in a time of crisis,” averting a potential tragedy.