The Massapequa woman who successfully underwent a double organ transplant in June after Nassau police officers raced her by car and helicopter to a Manhattan hospital, on Monday tearfully thanked the cops she credited with saving her life.
Dana Sepulveda, a mother of two and wife of an NYPD officer, hugged the officers as they were publicly recognized as “Top Cops” and given citations Monday during a meeting of the Nassau County Legislature.
“I now have four heroes in my life,” said Sepulveda, 36, her voice breaking. “ . . . I couldn’t be more thankful to them.”
At about 6 a.m. on June 26, Sepulveda — still in her pajamas — went into the Seventh Precinct in Seaford looking for help after receiving a call from her doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital telling her she had only 90 minutes to get to the hospital in heavy rush-hour traffic to undergo the liver and kidney transplant.
Officer Michael Passarelli, a rookie who graduated from the police academy about eight months ago, was summoned to the precinct to drive Sepulveda to a waiting Nassau police helicopter in Bethpage.
Meanwhile, Police Medic Greg Millwater, Jr., got a call from a precinct desk officer explaining the situation. Millwater called Police Officer Pilot Thomas Fabian on his cellphone and they had the aircraft ready by the time Passarelli drove up.
Fabian, a 20-year department veteran who’s retiring next week, said it took 12 minutes to get Sepulveda to the 34th Street helipad on the East Side of Manhattan.
“I tried to call my bosses to get permission,” Fabian said. “We couldn’t get anyone on the phone, so since I was retiring, I said, “I’ll take the heat if anything happens.’ So we just went into the city and did the right thing.”
Asked on Monday why they wanted to help, Fabian explained: “We’re not always just going out looking for people that are doing wrong, we’re trying to help out people who are in need and I’m glad we could do something for this lady.”
Sepulveda said the officers showed great sensitivity and professionalism, particularly Millwater, who she said comforted her.
“He held my hand from the helicopter all the way to the police car and gave me a big hug,” she said. “I was alone and I was terrified and I think he could see that . . . It gave me the feeling that it was going to be OK.”
Police officer John Coupe was part of the rescue effort, but did not attend Monday’s meeting.
Nassau Acting Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said he was humbled by the officers’ actions, which showed their training “paid off.”
“When they can do something like this and get someone to a transplant on time . . . it’s very rewarding for them,” Ryder said.
Kenneth Sepulveda, a 9-year NYPD veteran who stayed home with their children waiting for a baby sitter while his wife was brought to the hospital, on Monday also gave thanks to the Nassau cops.
“I wasn’t surprised because that’s what police officers do, they help people,” he said.