(Left to right): Paul DiGaicomo, president of the Detectives Endowment Association; Linda Messo, RUMC NICU RN; Kenda Damate, Messo's stepmother and retired NYPD detective. Messo was recognized by the DEA Endowment Association for her heroism in saving the life of off-duty DEA Det. Michael Cacciopolli.
Linda Messo, a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) registered nurse at Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC), says she’s a woman of faith who believes there were no coincidences on July 29 when she saved the life of off-duty Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Det. Michael Cacciopolli.
Messo, 26, of Colts Neck, N.J., had just crossed the Outerbridge Crossing on the way to her 7 p.m. shift at RUMC, and was sitting in traffic. “I never drive in the far-right lane of 440 when I get off the bridge. I’m always in the left lane because I have to get on the expressway. I totally believe if I wasn’t in that far right lane that I wouldn’t have seen the car; I wouldn’t have seen him on the floor,” Messo told the Advance/SILive.com.
Cacciopolli was on his way home from a beach in New Jersey when he started feeling sick and began vomiting on the shoulder of 440. Moments later he was unconscious on the ground while his girlfriend was frantically screaming for help on the phone with 911. When he vomited, he aspirated – meaning the vomit entered his airway and went into his lungs.
Messo saw what was happening and pulled over, got out of the car, told Cacciopolli’s girlfriend she was a nurse and began performing CPR. “I could tell based on my assessment that he was in full blown cardiac arrest,” she said.
Earlier that same day, Messo had to recertify her basic life support (BLS) and CPR training, which expires every two years. So she had just finished a refresher course on how to perform CPR when she saw Cacciopolli unconscious on the ground.
“I truly believe God put me there, and was with me that day. I’m a NICU nurse; I work with tiny babies — I’ve never performed CPR on an adult. I’ve only ever used my two fingers or my thumbs to do chest compressions. Everything lined up that day, even though this poor guy did suffer in that moment, everything that day happened for a reason,” she said.
While performing CPR, Port Authority police arrived. Messo asked them for an automated external defibrillator (AED). The AED shocked Cacciopolli three times and Messo performed CPR for approximately 20 minutes before his normal sinus rhythm returned. He was taken via ambulance to Staten Island University Hospital in Princes Bay, where he was intubated and placed on a ventilator. He remained on the ventilator for several weeks before being transferred to Glen Clove Hospital, where he also stayed for several weeks. Cacciopolli fully recovered and is due to return to active duty soon. A neurologist at Staten Island University Hospital said because Messo performed CPR so perfectly, he didn’t lose any motor functions.
For her heroic actions, Messo was recently honored by the Drug Enforcement Agency and presented with an award, given to her by DEA Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo.