Doctor Helped Save Security Guard's Life — and Now Guard Is Protecting His Hospital

Saturday, Oct. 5 started as a typical day for Chris Crowley at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, New York. Then came the big fall.

The 58-year-old security guard was in the lobby café, and due to a change in medications after two major brain surgeries, he passed out and hit his head. Unconscious and bleeding from his head, Crowley was rushed to the emergency room just down the hall.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” Crowley tells PEOPLE, “and I can thank the doc for that.”

Dr. Nitin Mariwalla, a 39-year-old neurosurgeon, is a close friend of Crowley’s. The two first met outside of the hospital walls in 2017 as volunteers at the Atlantic Steamer Fire Department in Oyster Bay, New York, and instantly bonded.

Mariwalla was on his way out of the hospital, where he often performs his most complicated surgeries, to go home to his three young kids in Oyster Bay when he overheard the staff saying a security guard had fallen.

“I immediately thought to myself, ‘Oh my god. What if it’s Chris?’ and sure enough, it was,” he recalls.

Mariwalla immediately stepped up to help his friend in the operating bay of the emergency room — and was able to tell the staff the details he knew about his two previous brain surgeries.

Crowley's forehead was significantly injured and he suffered from multiple lacerations that caused a lot of bleeding. When he woke up and realized who had helped save his life, he wasn’t surprised.

“I felt like I was in good hands and that everything was going to be alright,” he says. “I love giving back after they’ve done so much for me.”

After Crowley returned to work, he “felt even more motivated to give back,” he says.

That determination hasn’t slowed down during the coronavirus pandemic because “patients and their families need us," he says. "It’s my job to protect and serve.”

As St. Francis became inundated with COVID-19 patients over the last month, the single Crowley has been giving back while witnessing the heartbreaking effects of the pandemic during his six-day workweeks.

Crowley patrols the hospital and grounds, making sure that everyone is safe and gets to where they need to be. Though “the hours are long and hard,” Crowley feels “grateful” for Dr. Mariwalla and the entire staff for getting him back on his feet.

Mariwalla feels grateful, too. He knew few people in Long Island when he moved from Atlanta to start his private practice in West Islip and New York City. But when he met Crowley, he instantly had a new friend and quickly grew to respect his hard work ethic.

“I always felt like no matter how hard of a day that I was having, no matter how tired I was or stressed out I was, if Chris was around, he was really a symbol of steadfastness and integrity and hard work,” he says. “And that's what I love the most about him. It could be nuclear winter and Chris would be out there.”

He adds: “I think our friendship is strong no matter what because of who Chris is. For me, that is the best part about having friends like him. One of my mentors taught me a long time ago, ‘Surround yourself with people who are better than you.’ That's the secret sauce. Just find people who are better than you and make sure you are surrounded by them. Chris is one of those guys for me.”

For Crowley, who also suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm a few years back, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Not afraid to show up for work, he’s taking “all the extra precautions" and feels "very safe.”

He also feels “lucky to be alive, to have such a great job — and such a great friend," he adds. "It’s always a good time to work hard."

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