Local News

Virginia nurse helps save injured Cary officer

Posted July 17, 2011 2:01 p.m. EDT
Updated July 17, 2011 11:15 p.m. EDT

— A Virginia nurse said she believes that God put her in the right place and time to help a Cary police officer injured in a motorcycle wreck late Friday afternoon.

Jessica Elliot, 37, of Lynchburg, Va., said she saw a Dodge pickup truck make a left turn in front of Senior Officer Chad Penland's motorcycle as he tried to make a traffic stop on N.C. Highway 55, near Morrisville-Carpenter Road.

Elliot watched in horror as Penland hit the truck face-first and went flying through the air before landing hard.

"It all happened very quickly, but it was like in slow motion," she said.

But her training as a registered nurse quickly kicked in. She stopped, made sure her 2-year-old daughter was secured in the car and ran to help.

"When I saw what happened to the gentleman, I did not expect him to be alive," Elliot said. "There was no walking away from that. I mean, he needed me."

Others passersby stopped to help as well, and Elliot said she took command of the situation. She directed other people to make their shirts into tourniquets, while concentrating on Penland's most urgent needs.

Penland, 32, stayed conscious the whole time but was in a lot of pain, Elliot said.  

"His biggest problem was he couldn't breathe very well, with his jaw dislocated and disconnected," she said. "He didn't have much of an airway, so I was holding his head in a way that he could breathe."

Emergency medical workers arrived in minutes, Elliot said, and took Penland to Duke University Hospital. Authorities said he suffered multiple broken bones and is expected to recover.

Troopers said the pickup driver, Benjamin Rainey, 72, of Cary, wasn't injured. He was charged with failing to yield the right of way.

Elliot said she was making a regular visit to family in Cary, and on those trips, she usually takes Interstate 40. On Friday, though, she knew she'd be dealing with rush hour traffic, so she took N.C. 55.

Elliot said that God had a purpose for her to be in that place at that time and that helping save the officer's life gives meaning to all the medical training she's had.