'She's our angel,' Addison family says of officer
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Some angels have wings.
Others have automated external defibrillators.
For Ed and Nancy Sullivan of Addison, local police Officer Maria Reyes falls into the latter category.
On Monday, the Sullivans were driving to a church meeting when Ed had a massive heart attack while behind the wheel of his Ford F-150 SuperCrew.
Nancy stopped the truck. But it appeared too late for her 49-year-old husband — until Reyes raced in "like a football player about to cross the 5-yard line," she said, and zapped him with a portable AED.
By Friday, Ed already was back to chuckling, even as he recuperated from an angioplasty-and-stent procedure at Adventist GlenOaks Hospital in Glendale Heights.
All he remembers is noticing the price of gas.
"The next thing I know, I'm in a post-surgery consult in the (intensive-care unit)," he said. "That's it."
It was shortly before 7 p.m. Monday when Nancy realized something was terribly wrong with Ed.
They had just turned onto Lake Street in Addison, bound for a meeting at St. Philip the Apostle Parish. The truck drifted slightly toward oncoming traffic.
"We like to get smart aleck-y on each other when we do stupid things, so I turned to make a smart aleck comment, and it was one of those surreal moments where everything comes together," Nancy said. "I thought, 'Why does he have his hands up by his neck?' He appeared to be snoring, and that threw me for a loop. All of a sudden, I thought, 'He can't breathe.'"
Then, she said, "Ed's foot went heavier on the gas pedal — and we took off like a rocket."
Fortunately, Nancy said, her husband taught her to downshift in his truck just last winter — so she was able to safely guide them off the street, where a crowd of several good Samaritans stopped to help.
Nancy said some of the group called 911 and tried to console her. Others pulled Ed from the truck and helped with cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
At times, Nancy touched her spouse's face and begged him to live.
"There's times where you know someone is gone — and he was gone," she said. "He wouldn't focus. He was just looking straight through everybody."
Then she heard sirens and saw Reyes bolt from a patrol car with an AED under her arm.
"She just had such precision and great command of everything," Nancy said of the officer. "She calmed my butt down and had me doing exactly what she needed me to do. She did everything perfect."
Reyes, a 16-year police veteran and CPR/AED instructor, said she happened to be patrolling Lake Street when the dispatch came through. She was first at the scene.
"Just from looking at him, I knew we had to move fast," Reyes said. "Quite honestly, I thought he was dead."
Reyes said she performed several chest compressions to analyze Ed's heart before she and Nancy put the defibrillator pads to his chest.
"The machine said to shock him right away. We gave him a shock, and you could just see the red come back to his face. It was like a miracle," Reyes said. "I just looked up and said, 'Thank you.'"
Ed underwent angioplasty Monday night and has been recovering better than doctors first expected.
He joked Friday that he's "blissfully unaware" of the trauma he went through.
"I feel great, aside from having a couple of cracked ribs from the CPR, and thank God that I do," he said.
On Tuesday, he felt well enough to meet Reyes for an emotional reunion at GlenOaks. He thanked her "profusely," and she said she'd been praying for him.
It was a "big love fest," according to Nancy.
"She's our angel and if we could adopt her, we would," Nancy said. "She gave him back to me."
For Reyes, a former juvenile officer and gang specialist, the experience was a reminder of why she wanted to be a police officer in the first place. But she added it's important to note she didn't act alone.
"Some people aren't willing to get involved, but there were tons of people there and everyone had a role," Reyes said. "It wasn't just my actions, but everyone's actions. I think we made a great team."
Ed said he wishes he could identify everyone involved because "they all deserve my thanks."
That goes for his wife of 13 years, too.
"I'm so proud of her," he beamed. "I can't help but recognize that she saved my life. How much more can you put on your significant other than that?"
The Sullivans, who moved to the area about four years ago from Nashville, Tenn., expected Ed to be home by Sunday. They said doctors, surprisingly, anticipated no further procedures.
Nancy said she hopes Ed's story will prompt more police agencies to equip and train all officers with AEDs.
The couple also wanted to share their positive experience with Addison police and GlenOaks Hospital, as well as thank the community for showing support.
"Our little village of Addison just really stepped up for a couple of people who are kind of transplants, and it's a very humbling experience," Ed said.
"Someday, maybe I'll remember what happened," he added. "But if I don't, I'll still remember the part that's important."
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