Jersey City police officer on 'Survivor Cagayan' lauded for saving neighbor's life
The Jersey City police officer who has made it to the final four on the CBS "Survivor Cagayan" series is being credited with saving the life of a 69-year-old neighbor who had a massive heart attack on the officer's lawn.
“Without a doubt, he saved my life and I cannot figure out enough ways to thank him,” said Greg Nies, who lives in North Carolina but was visiting relatives in Allendale on Feb. 5 while Police Officer Tony Vlachos was moving in next door.
“There’s just not enough things you can do for someone who brings you back to life. I would have been gone except for the rapid administration of the CPR,” said Nies of the incident which came to light when his son sent a letter of thanks to Jersey City Police Chief Robert Cowan recently.
That day, Nies had been shoveling snow when Vlachos and his friend Sherif Fanous arrived next door and their car got stuck.
“He was moving into a new place and didn’t have any tools so I took a shovel over to loan him,” Nies said Friday. “I walked about 150, 200 feet through the 9-inch-deep snow and when I got there his friend was outside and I greeted him and told him what I was there for and I went over like a tree – down.” After that, Nies’ only knowledge of events is through witnesses.
“Sharif started screaming ‘Tony. Tony.’” Vlachos said. “When he went outside Sharif was on the phone to 911 and the phone was shaking like a leaf. It looked like a cartoon…I saw (Nies) and he was a mixture of blue, black and purple and it was obvious he was dead.’”
Vlachos said he ripped Nie’s jacket open and began compressions. He said he told Fantous to give the 911 operator the address, get off the phone and do the CPR breathing. After 20 of 25 compressions, Vlachos told Fantous to give Nies three breaths.
“About two minutes later, and two minutes feels like two hours, his color came back and (Nies) took some little breaths but he went under again – no pulse, no breathing no signs of life and he started changing colors again,” Vlachos said.
The pair continued CPR for seven or eight minutes until police and an ambulance arrived and by then Nies was getting some color back, Vlachos said. Nies said he later learned a defibrillator was used to shock him once at the scene and five times in the ambulance.
“I’m told I woke up about an hour later and then crashed again,” Nies said, adding that he underwent a quadruple bypass and is home and recovering but not back to his regular routine yet. “(Vlachos) had done a great job of keeping me going.”
Vlachos said weeks later, Nies “Came over my house and shook my hand like a vise grip. It was like watching an angel come down because I saw the guy dead in front of me. For this guy to just walk to me from the dead, it sent chills down my spine…It is the most beautiful feeling you can ever have as a human being.”
After receiving the letter from Nies’ son, the police recommended Vlachos for a commendation, saying “While off-duty, he still acted in the capacity of a police officer and used his training to save a life.”
The "Survivor' show’s season finale will be broadcast Wednesday. Of the 18 who started, Vlachos is among the four survivors who will learn that night if he is the sole survivor and winner of $1 million.
Vlachos will be flying to Los Angeles to watch the 2-hour final episode and learn his fate. His wife will not be able to attend because she is eight months pregnant with their second child.
Matthew Nies’ letter to Chief Cowan ends saying “My father is able to see his granddaughter again because of the quick actions of Officer Vlachos and for that I am eternally grateful.”