"Then he got down on one knee and I thought that he was hurt and then he just said, 'Erin, I don't know what to say' and then I realize what was going on," his girlfriend said.
What was meant to be a regular race turned into a day that the Chicago Police Department admitted that they will never forget. Among a horde of people at the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K race was Chicago Police SWAT Sgt. Mike Nowacki. And by the end of the race, his life was significantly different from what it was when the race began.
"S.W.A.T. Sgt. Nowacki, a 19-year-veteran of the Chicago Police Department, for the love of his profession and commitment to excellence, ran the Allstate Hot Chocolate Run in full S.W.A.T. gear today," the Chicago Police Department wrote in a Facebook post.
Whilst carrying an extra 50 pounds of gear for the entire run, Mike also had in mind the "crazy idea" of proposing at the finish line to the woman he loved, Officer Erin Gubala. Erin was also at the 15k race, keeping a watch over people as she was on duty there.
As he ran the race, Mike was also thinking of the perfect words to say to Erin. But about 150 years away from the finish line, he heard people screaming, and without skipping a beat, he put his proposal plans on hold.
"I hear people screaming, 'medic, medic,'" Mike told WGN TV. "Training kinda kicked in and I went towards a crowd of people around a female laying on the ground."
The dedicated officer instinctively got on the floor and with the help of a firefighter from Indiana, he performed CPR on the woman who had suffered a cardiac arrest.
At that time, the emergency crew was informed that someone had fallen, and Erin was worried because finding the person among a "sea of people" was a challenge. "That's when I heard his call sign come over the radio and heard him say he was administering CPR," Erin said.
The woman had no pulse and wasn't breathing, but owing to Mike, who quickly jumped into action, her life was saved. The Chicago Police Department said, "The female subject was transported to Northwestern Hospital where doctors stated Sgt. Nowacki's actions and the quick response by emergency medical services saved the female's life."
Mike was glad to have been at the right place at the right time and said, "It was definitely a serendipitous moment because if I had run a little bit slower or a little bit faster I would have never encountered the young lady."
But Mike's eventful day wasn't over, yet. Right after saved the woman's life, he went up to Erin. "Mostly what I was trying to do as I finished the race was come up with something good to say and I was totally thrown off by having to perform CPR," Mike said, according to ABC 7 Chicago.
Erin didn't even notice that he was coming towards her, given that he was wearing his entire gear and even had his helmet on. But she eventually saw him running towards her.
"He's sweating and I wanted to talk to him about what happened down the way, find out more information," Erin recalled, "and then he got down on one knee and I thought that he was hurt and then he just said, 'Erin, I don't know what to say' and then I realize what was going on."
Mike managed to find the right words and his eager question, "will you marry me?" was following by a "yes" from Erin.
In a matter of hours, Mike had run an entire race in his S.W.A.T. gear, saved a woman's life, and had even gotten engaged. And he was left exhausted by the end of it all.
"As a police officer we go towards the sound of gunfire, and then as a SWAT medic we also have that instinct of going towards someone who's calling for a medic," Mike shared.
He went back home to get himself the rest he earned. Once Erin was finished with her shift, she joined him to celebrate their engagement with some much-needed rest before they began their future together.
Watch them talk about the day below.