KENOSHA, Wis. — Two big decisions in Desiree Farchione's life were precipitated by potentially life-threatening events.
The first began with a button.
Farchione, then a young girl — 8 or 9 she thinks — was tossing a button in the air while getting ready for a Brownie meeting. As she looked up to catch it, she missed, and the button fell into her upturned open mouth and lodged in her throat.
She began to choke.
"My dad was panicking," she remembered, and so was she.
Someone called 911, and soon a police officer arrived.
"He was old school, with a notebook in his back pocket," Farchione told the Kenosha News .
As soon as he walked in, radiating calm amid pandemonium, the atmosphere changed. The officer quickly handled the situation, dislodging the button, and Farchione was breathing easy again.
"I thought, 'I want to be that person,'" she said. She wanted to be the presence that brought calm to trouble.
After high school she put herself through the police academy and then was hired part time in two small police departments while she also worked as a waitress.
In 1998 she joined the Kenosha Police Department as a full-time police officer. She has been a patrol sergeant and detective sergeant and now is a second-shift lieutenant.
In addition, she worked for many years as an instructor at the police academy, teaching about 60 new recruits each year.
A twist of fate occurred in Farchione's life in 2003 when she responded to a call of a baby not breathing. Similar to her own childhood experience, this time Farchione was able to save the life of the baby.
The next accident that led to a life-changing decision happened in 2011 at the academy.
She was teaching recruits how to handle people resisting arrest.
"I was wearing RedMan gear — full protection gear," and was teaching a student how to "decentralize" a suspect — i.e., put the person on the ground.
In this case the person going to the ground was Farchione. Once on the ground, the student was to give her "a knee strike or two."
"He did it exactly as he was trained to do," Farchione said. But in doing so, he fractured her spine in two places.
For the next 2.5 months, Farchione had to be immobilized. After that came three months of physical therapy. In all, she said, she was off work for six months.
Farchione said she had spent much of her life up to that point overweight. Although she was fit, and enjoyed sports and working out, she was, as she puts it, "thick."
The injury, she said, was a wake-up call. If she was able to recover, she pledged to herself that she would not take life for granted, including her health.
She made a list of things she wanted to accomplish — a list as varied as completing a 5K and lying outside looking up during a rain. She aimed to knock four things off the list each year, and to add four more.
After she was cleared to begin working out, she joined the Harbor Park CrossFit gym.
At 45, she is now the fittest she has been, and 100 pounds lighter than she was in the past.
"I think in my job, functional fitness is really the most appropriate," Farchione said.
She wanted to be fit enough to run down a fleeing suspect, strong enough to handle a fractious suspect, fit enough that she would never be a physical liability to the officers she oversees.
"I have an obligation to my profession and to the guys I work with," she said.
She now works out about 1.5 hours a day, typically five to six days a week. She also competes regularly in CrossFit competitions.
The national law enforcement magazine Law Enforcement Technology in August featured Farchione's fitness routine — and a photo of her — after seeking officers' fitness photos in a national contest.
The magazine chose a photo of Farchione mid-leap, working out in a weighted vest.
Farchione said her commitment to fitness — and to embracing new challenges — since recovering from her injury has expanded her idea of what is possible.
"I've learned I can do a lot of things I never thought I would be able to do," Farchione said.
An AP Member Exchange shared by the Kenosha News.