'A beautiful, wonderful, happy soul': Family of MPD officer hurt in crash to donate his organs
OAK CREEK, Wis. (CBS 58) -- As of Tuesday evening, Dec. 5, Milwaukee police officer James "Jimmy" Nowak is being kept alive in the intensive care unit at Froedtert Hospital while doctors preserve his organs for donation.
Nowak remained on a ventilator in the surgical ICU. His brain was bleeding into his spinal cord. Doctors found minimal brain function and the injuries were inoperable.
His wife Julia gave us permission to share photos taken in the hospital room.
Nowak's family told CBS 58 that his wife and family have decided to donate his organs after a crash Sunday night left him with minimal brain function. Nowak, the former partner of fallen MPD officer Peter Jerving, is someone many called generous and caring.
"Jimmy was just a beautiful, wonderful, happy soul," family friend Stephanie Gregory said. "If you knew him and didn't like him, there was something wrong with you. He was beautiful and had a wonderful heart."
According to their family, Nowak, who was off duty, was on his way home Sunday night from hanging out with family when the accident happened around 10:30 p.m. on Nicholson Rd., just south of College Avenue. Now, a cross, an American Flag, and the words "R.I.P Jimmy" cover the corner where it happened.
"There is very little that people can do right now to help the family, and I think things like this, just these gestures, show some of the love they so need right now," Gregory said.
Questions have been raised as to whether the semi was supposed to be on that stretch of Nicholson Road.
There is a "no trucks" sign on Nicholson. An Oak Creek police captain said there is a weight restriction on that road.
According to the city of Oak Creek, the weight limit on city streets is three tons, year-round. It says trucks weighing more should use trucking routes whenever feasible, then use the shortest distance on city streets.
Oak Creek police said it was too early in the investigation to know if the semi involved in the crash had violated the rules, but the driver was cooperating with the investigation.
Since the crash, the family has been hoping for Nowak's recovery, but they said doctors explained he had minimal brain function and would never speak or walk again, as his brain has been bleeding into his spinal cord.
"Our family, our hearts are broken for their family because they, too, are wonderful people," Gregory said.
Nowak, a registered organ donor, will now live on in others as his wife and family have decided to donate his organs. On his way to surgery, Nowak will receive an Honor Walk, where he will be thanked for his service and donation. His wife is hoping to drape him with an American Flag during that walk.
"I think he truly lived to make people smile, and I think that is how he is going to be remembered," Gregory said.
A GoFundMe for his family currently has already hit over $48,000. Gregory told CBS 58 that Nowak and his wife often helped other families going through struggles, so the outpouring of support has been amazing.
"It doesn't surprise me. Like I said, they gave so much love it's coming back to them now," she said.
The family also tells us that Nowak was planning to switch to a different district in the department because he found it hard to work in the same area as he did with Jerving after his partner and friend was killed in the line of duty in February.
MPD told us several times it will not comment on officers involved in off-duty incidents.
Right now there is no timetable for when Officer Nowak could be taken off life support.