Fairlawn Patrolman Steve Zagar had his heart attack at the right place and at the right time.
The 52-year-old collapsed Saturday surrounded by about 30 law enforcement officers before a welcome-home event for blinded Afghanistan veteran Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Hale outside Revere High School.
The quick work by CPR-trained police officers and paramedics and a doctor who happened to be there with Zagar after they escorted Hale and his family to the school are being credited with helping to save the police officer’s life.
“I could have been in a car, I could have been at home, I could have been anywhere,” said Zagar, a 28-year veteran with 22 years on the Fairlawn Police Department.
When Zagar collapsed about 3 p.m. Saturday officers from Fairlawn, Bath, Copley, Richfield, the Ohio Highway Patrol and Summit County Sheriff’s Office immediately went to work on resuscitating him. CPR was administered by officers including retired Richfield paramedic Don Zito.
Dr. Sonny Bare, an emergency room physician for Summa Health System, was attending the event and also worked to revive the officer.
An automated external defibrillator (AED) was retrieved from a Fairlawn police cruiser and had to be used twice to get him breathing again. Officers in Fairlawn have been trained how to use the AED machines.
“They said that these [AED machines] are cop-proof,” he said.
A Bath Township rescue squad rushed Zagar along with Bare to Akron General Medical Center.
He remembers coming to in the ambulance surrounded by medical workers. It was his first trip in an ambulance as a patient.
“I was totally at peace,” he said.
At the hospital, Zagar was whisked to the heart catheterization lab where cardiologists discovered a major blockage and inserted a stent to open the artery.
Zagar, a divorced father of four grown children, said he has replayed the fateful day and is thankful to be alive to celebrate another Christmas season.
“What a blessing,” he said of his survival.
He said he will soon begin cardiac rehab and likely will be off work for three months.
Zagar lost his father, Barberton Police Lt. Edward S. Zagar, more than 30 years ago when he died at the age of 57.
Zagar said he plans to thank everyone from the officers at the school to the ambulance personnel to the doctors and nurses at the hospital.
For starters, he plans on sending some food.
“I’m not going to send cookies,” joked Zagar, who lives in Coventry Township.
He said he is thinking about healthy foods since his heart attack.
“I’m going to send broccoli trays and celery sticks,” he said.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.