Nassau County Cops To Be Honored For Getting Patient To Transplant Surgery
Dana Sepulveda, then terminally ill, got the call from her doctor in June that the liver and kidney she needed were available — if she got to the hospital in Manhattan in 90 minutes.
The Massapequa mother of two — who is married to an NYPD officer — said she was shaking and desperate to get to Mount Sinai Hospital when she walked into the Nassau County Police Department’s Seventh Precinct in Seaford asking for help at about 6 a.m. on June 26.
“I went in by myself, completely frantic, in my pajamas,” Sepulveda, 36, a Realtor, recalled Sunday in an interview, saying an ambulance wouldn’t have made it on time in rush hour traffic. “I told them, ‘If I don’t get these organs, I don’t know what I’m going to do. You have to help me.’ ”
Four Nassau police officials — Officers John Coupe and Michael Passarelli, Medic Greg Millwater Jr. and helicopter pilot Thomas Fabian — were initially skeptical, but set up a police escort to ferry Sepulveda by car and police helicopter to the hospital.
Monday, they will be honored at the Nassau County Legislature for their efforts, which resulted in Sepulveda undergoing the transplant surgery. She and her husband, Kenneth Sepulveda, an NYPD officer in the 105th Precinct in Queens, plan to attend.
Dana Sepulveda said she was born with polycystic kidney and liver disease, which was exacerbated by her pregnancies. Before the transplant, her liver was enlarged and pressing up against her other organs, making it difficult for her to breathe and eat, she said.
The officers drove her to Bethpage, according to a statement from the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, and she was then taken by Nassau police helicopter to a helipad on 34th Street. From there, the NYPD got her to the hospital.
She said she told the Nassau cops that her husband was a police officer, but she didn’t think that was why they helped her.
“When we’re in trouble, that’s who we call,” she said of the police. “And they help us and people should never forget that.”
Sepulveda, who had left her husband at home with her young daughters, recalled how the Nassau police pilot 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.”
Monday’s ceremony will be the first time Dana Sepulveda — who is mom to daughters Lilly 2 1⁄2 and Lia, 1 — will see the officers since that day. She was hospitalized for nearly a month after the transplants, she said, and is doing “really great now” despite being on a regimen of about 50 anti-organ rejection meds.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to save my life, but you also saved my family,” Sepulveda said she wants to tell the four. “I don’t know how long I would have been able to survive.”
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