This Friday, we're proud to honor two hero cops from Old Bridge. Officers Ronia Walrond and Melissa Wine acted quickly and heroically, staying calm and performing life saving procedures to save a little boy's life, Joey Reinel. I can't tell the story better than Theresa Reinel, Joey's mom, did on Facebook, which the Old Bridge PBA Local 127 shared. Here is her post:

On August 19, 2018 around 3:00pm, our lives would be forever changed. Sudden cardiac arrest. Our baby Joey.

The saying goes “Life can change in an instant”. We really weren’t aware of the trueness of those words until that day when it happened to us - literally, in an instant. It is such a hard story to tell. It’s been a hard story to continue to tell to the numbers of medical professionals we’ve had to tell it to over the past few weeks. But I feel a need to tell it publicly - for a few different reasons. Hopefully, there can be something positive that can come out of this most painful time of our lives:

It was two Sundays ago. My husband was at work. One of my oldest friends had a baptism for her son. We arrived at the party around 2:30. The twins fell asleep as they normally would have during the drive there. I let them both sleep in the back while I put makeup on in the front. My mom came outside to sit with me and wait for the boys to get up. They got up, we went inside, said hi to a bunch of people, got a glass of wine and sat down to have some lunch. Joey wasn’t hungry, but that was also pretty normal. Three year olds and their diets.

He started to protest that he wanted to go home. Also pretty normal right now. Of course, I said no. He settled in, started to talk a bit to his grandma, and grandpa and a friend. Then he got up to walk around. We went to see the dessert table and he grabbed a cookie. His eyes lit up about eating it - so I let him. A few minutes later - he started running around and playing with his brother.

And that’s the instant that everything changed. Joey fell to the floor.

Thinking that he was joking and his brother was just teasing him, our other twin, Julian, ran over and shook him and then picked his arm up. I watch it drop limply to the floor. My mom to me: “Theresa, go check on him, that didn’t look right”.

So I walked calmly over to him and I picked him up. His body went limp in my arms. Thinking he might have hit his head and maybe just passed out for a bit, I tried to sit him in a chair and smack his cheek a bit to revive him. No response. His body was still limp. I watched his lips start to turn blue. I rushed to lay him on the floor. My father (a former first responder) ran to my side. I looked at my father and saw the horror in his face - I looked him square in the eyes: “Dad, start compressions”. I breathed into him. Once, twice, three times. Nothing. My father pumped relentlessly.

I stopped the breaths. We paused. He vomited. We laid him on his side. I swept his mouth. “Baby, Joey, come on baby, stay with me. Joey”. We saw his color come back, and then leave again. So we started again. I breathed, he pumped. Minutes passed. Luckily, there was a nurse in the room that came to help us. She took over for my father, then me. More minutes passed. The three of us worked relentlessly. I remember sitting back at one point when I couldn’t do it anymore and screaming: “Where are they?!?!”. It felt like a lifetime until the EMS came. I heard later it was only 7 minutes.

Finally, EMS arrived. I sat back on my heels. I heard them and the commotion. I heard them working on him. I heard the first paddle charging. “Clear”. Nothing. I couldn’t watch. I put my head down, and I prayed. Hard. They continued. More minutes passed. I heard the second “Charge” “Clear”. Nothing. “15 minutes 23 seconds - No Response.” My whole body sank to the ground with grief, horror and desperation. This was really happening. My baby is going to die. So I prayed. Relentlessly. “Dear Jesus, please no”. “Dear Jesus, Heavenly Father in heaven, please no.” Again and again and again. I prayed. “Please just take me. Take me now. Leave him. Let him live, please just take me. No lord, please, please lord no.”

I remember my friends surrounding me. Squeezing me. Holding onto me. Hugging me. I remember clutching, clawing into them in grief. Praying. Hugging. Praying. Completely in shock. Completely surreal. And then the third time “Charge” “Clear”.

“We’ve got something. It’s faint.”

I looked up. I saw his chest faintly rising in his chest. His color came back. “Call Izzi”. “Tell him to meet me there”. I answered a few questions for the EMS, climbed on the ambulance with him and we started toward Robert Wood. My father couldn’t leave us, he sat in the front of the ambulance. I was so numb. Soul shockingly numb. I had no emotion. I just held his hand. The ambulance drivers prepared us for what would happen once we got to the hospital. I answered all their questions. I asked him to move his hand on the ride. I watched his fingers claw into me. He understood me! Something was still there.

My next memory is standing outside the “resuscitation” room #3, and watching him and his vitals. I watched his heart beats exceed 220 bpm. I was there when he coded. “We lost him.” “Charge” “Clear”. They closed the curtain. I heard them say - “Why is she standing there?!?!” My father shook his head, and walked away.

“Oh, wait, we got him”.

I think we were outside that room for an hour. It could have been 2 or 4 or a week. The chaplain stayed by my side. My father continually paced. I sat. My head was in my hands most of the time. I couldn’t watch. He coded twice again in that room. All I remember is how surreal it was and how incredibly numb I felt.

Finally Izzi arrived. I couldn’t talk to him. “What? (through tears) What’s going on?!” I just hugged him. Half to support him and half to have someone to hold me up. There were no words. I asked the doctors if my husband could see him. They let us in the room. He was on life support. I went behind him and stroked his hair. Izzi grabbed a part of his arm. Shock, horror, confusion - I watched him have to try and process what was going on in an instant. They handed him Joeys red shoes. He stood back, clutching Joeys shoes for life, and just staring at him in disbelief.

Finally they got him stable enough for transport. He was heading up to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. We could see him as soon as they settled him in. I headed straight to the chapel. I remember leaning against the wall for support and dropping to my knees on the hard tile chapel floor. I clutched the wall for life and I finally cried. Sobbing. Crying. Praying. Empty stomached gut wrenching sobs.

And then we waited. HOURS. We made our way to the PICU aviary/waiting room. My oldest friends never left me. My father never left me. Izzis family arrived a little later. Jordan’s friend drove to Muhlenburg to pick him up and drop him off at the hospital. It was a VERY long 4-5 hours, but thankfully we were surrounded. Friends, family, love and prayers.

We continued to be surrounded as we made our way to Columbia/NY Presbyterian in the middle of that Sunday night/Monday morning. We continue to feel surrounded. Brothers, sisters, parents, friends, family, cousins - our village: “Anything you need, just let us know.”

THANK YOU. I could never find the right way to say thank you to everyone who rushed to our side or reached out to help us as we tried to deal with this. I could never find the right way to extend my gratitude to everyone who has helped us along the way - from Miriam (the nurse from the party), to the initial responders, the Old Bridge police department, EMTs, ambulance drivers, medics, nurses, doctors. My brother and sister who instantly came down from Maine. My son who left his second week in college to come stand beside us. My parents and Izzi’s parents and sister who helped us maintain our home in our absence. Our friends. The kindness, the compassion, and the love we have felt and experienced during this traumatic time has been immeasurable.

And now, to everyone who took the time to read this story through - 2 things:

LEARN CPR. Please. For your family, for your children, for everyone you love. Know about it. Learn about it. Take that class! You will never know how valuable it will be - until it’s needed.

And if you know nothing - remember this: Chest compressions (alone) to the beat of “Staying Alive” by the BeeGees can save a life.

LOVE THEM. Dear God, love the crap out of them. Hold them longer than you should. Ignore their annoyances. Listen to their stories. Laugh at their silliness. Kiss them for no reason. Cherish every day with them. Because your lives can change in an instant.

We still don’t have a diagnosis. We may never have a diagnosis. From what I’ve learned, two/thirds of the time a child has sudden cardiac arrest there never really is a definitive diagnosis. He’s likely to be on heart medication for the rest of his life. He’s had a defibrillator implanted into his belly and attached to his heart in case the arrhythmias happens again. But he is here - our sweet, shy, silly, and sometimes stank face little boy is still with us. And for as long as we have with him - we will be eternally grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord


Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015. Tweet him @NJ1015 or @BillSpadea. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Bill Spadea.

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