After nearly ten years as a Chicago Police officer, Dierdre Burrell-Hill started questioning her life’s direction. “I was asking God what is my purpose, what should I be doing,” she says. Although she was good at her job, she always felt there was something else in store.

One afternoon in 1989, Burrell-Hill was answering 911 calls. She picked up a call from a woman who was crying hysterically. The woman said her three-month-old baby had stopped breathing. Following police procedure Burrell-Hill handed the case over to the fire department. The woman called back 15 minutes later, and out of the 17 other officers working the phones Burrell-Hill answered. The woman pleaded for help, screaming that her baby had now turned blue. Risking her job, Burrell-Hill instructed the woman on how to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After five tense minutes, the baby was breathing.

Burrell-Hill’s actions won front page coverage in the Sun-Times. The story was relayed on radio shows across the country and on the TV program Rescue 911. Burrell-Hill appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and was honored by various organizations. Yet the most valuable thing she gained from the incident was discovering her purpose–“to help people heal themselves.”

She completed the acupuncture program she’d started two years before and took extended vacation time for further study in China. She shocked the police department when she requested a three-month leave of absence to set up shop.

Burrell-Hill never returned to being a police officer. Instead she gives holistic health care seminars, motivational speeches, and meditation classes. This January, Essence magazine listed her as one of nine nationally recognized meditation experts, and she was recently a finalist in Les Brown’s “Speak Off,” a motivational speaking competition.

“A lot of people don’t understand how I left the money and security of the police department for this,” she says. “But I’m happy. Who do I have to apologize to for following my life’s purpose?”

Burrell-Hill offers acupuncture, acupressure, massage, stress management seminars, and “self-empowerment workshops.” She’s teaching a ten-week meditation class that begins April 24 at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, 5480 S. Kenwood. Call 488-5877 for more.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Cynthia Howe.