From a fun and laidback school festival to a brush with death―this is what a Cleveland police officer experienced at Carver Park Estates on August 20, 2022.
Sgt. Ray O’Connor, administrative sergeant at the Cleveland Police Department Fourth District, was playing football with the kids in the neighborhood when he told fellow police officer Brooklyn Barnes that he had been stung by a bee, to which he’s deathly allergic.
He’d been stung on his left and right wrists. He’d also left his EpiPen at the District 4 station.
Shortly after that, Sgt. O’Connor dropped to the ground and lost consciousness. That’s when they realized that they had a life-threatening emergency situation.
As they rushed to move Sgt. O’Connor to their police cruiser for first aid, a quick-thinking mother and festival volunteer, Tomika Johnson, saw what happened and immediately grabbed her son’s EpiPen from her house. Officer Barnes then gave it to the unconscious police officer to stabilize him until EMS arrived.
While being lifted to the squad car, Sgt. O’Connor kept saying what he thought were his last words: that he loved his girlfriend and to give his dog to another cop for them to raise.
After that, Sgt. O’Connor was brought to St. Vincent Hospital, where he got the medical treatment he needed and where he would eventually recover.
But suffice it to say, without that lifesaving EpiPen, things would have ended differently and tragically.
Allergies are your immune system’s reaction to a foreign substance that doesn’t cause a reaction in other people. These foreign substances can be a lot of things, like food, perfume, pollen, pet dander―and in Sgt. O’Connor’s case―bee stings.
A severe allergy attack causes your immune system to release a flood of chemicals that can make you go into shock.
An epinephrine injection, or EpiPen, is used for emergency treatments of severe or life-threatening allergy attacks brought about by allergens or unknown triggers. If a person suffers from severe allergic reactions, they should have an EpiPen with them at all times.
An EpiPen can save your life because it works rapidly, stimulating the heart, improving breathing, raising a dropping blood pressure, and reducing swelling in the throat, lips, and face. It also reverses hives.
Tomika knows just how important having an EpiPen is. Her 10-year-old son Zaire is allergic to everything. That’s why she makes sure they have EpiPens all over the house.
A statement by the Cleveland Police Department Fourth District: “Tomika’s quick thinking, fast response, and concern for Sgt. O’Connor’s well-being demonstrated a high regard for human life.”
This is why Tomika and her son Zaire will be recognized with the Citizen Award for their selfless and heroic efforts. The City of Cleveland’s Fourth District Awards will happen on October 6, 2022.
According to Sgt. O’Connor, there’s nothing that compares to this near-death experience. Even that time when he was shot at twice.
After he was stung by the bees, he could barely breathe. He knew that it was the end. For a physically fit police officer who stands 6 feet7 inches tall, that day at the park was the most scared he’d been in his whole life.
But all’s well that ends well. For Tomika, she’s just glad that she was at the right place at the right time. She insists that she only did what she needed to do, and that doesn’t make her a hero.
But obviously, that’s not what the city thinks, especially the Fourth District Station and police officers O’Connor and Barnes, who witnessed Tomika’s heroism first-hand.
Sgt. Ray O’Connor and Tomika Johnson met the following day after he was discharged from the hospital. It just so happened that Zaire recently celebrated his birthday. So as a thank you, officers O’Connor and Barnes brought over some birthday gifts, plus a gift card worth $100.
Sgt. O’Connor now considers Tomika his guardian angel. Without her, he wouldn’t be alive today. Other people would have turned away when someone is in trouble, but not Tomika.
Tomika simply believes in the power of kindness, in being kind to everyone, and hoping that she’ll receive the same kindness back.
Sgt. Ray O’Connor and Tomika Johnson were fated to be at the same place that day. Brave police officers and quick-thinking mothers, they’re everyday superheroes indeed!
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