Perry Hall resident Arlene Georgakis dabbed her eyes as she thanked Havre de Grace Police PFC Chad Smith for “giving me a second chance at life.”
Georgakis, along with her husband, Tony, and daughter, Nichole Regulski, of Kingsville, visited Havre de Grace City Hall during Monday evening’s City Council meeting and stood with Smith as police officials presented him with a Life Saving Award after he saved Georgakis from cardiac arrest in late April.
The incident happened on the morning of April 27 along Route 43 in Baltimore County. Police Chief Teresa Walter said Smith was off duty after finishing a night shift and was heading east when he saw what he initially thought was a disabled vehicle on the side of the road.
As he got closer, he saw Georgakis in “medical distress” and people, including her husband, aiding her. Smith pulled over, contacted the Havre de Grace Police dispatch, gave his location and asked them to send EMS personnel.
Smith rendered First Aid and CPR and used a police automated external defibrillator, or AED, to revive Georgakis, the chief said. She said EMS arrived “very quickly” and took over from Smith, later transporting Georgakis to the hospital.
“Thank you for having us,” an emotional Georgakis told police and city leaders. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for [Smith].”
Mayor William T. Martin thanked Smith for his lifesaving efforts and gave him a challenge coin on behalf of the city. He lauded Smith’s professionalism as well as “the training that he has, and the experience that gave him the instincts to realize to pull over to see what was going on.”
“Thank you for just being trained and thank you for being professional, and thank you for being there,” the mayor added.
Smith, whose family was also present for the award ceremony, then gathered outside City Hall with his family and Georgakis and her husband and daughter.
Smith, a resident of Perry Hall, said the AED he kept in his police vehicle had been donated to the Havre de Grace department during a state Fraternal Order of Police meeting.
Smith has been with the Havre de Grace Police for seven years and was with the Baltimore City Police Department for five years prior to joining Havre de Grace.
“We were very, very lucky that Chad has [the AED] in his car and knew how to use it,” Regulski said.
Tony Georgakis said he and his wife had gone out for breakfast and were heading home when she suddenly went into cardiac arrest. He pulled over on the side of Route 43 and flagged down other drivers for help, including a woman who was performing chest compressions when Smith arrived.
“I knew we had to go the hospital, but I also knew we weren’t going to make it so we stopped on the side of the road,” he said.
Smith said there are “quite a few” Havre de Grace officers who keep AEDs in their vehicles. Their use is not limited to first responders, as civilians can learn about the device as part of CPR training, he said.
An AED is used to monitor the heart rhythm of a person experiencing cardiac arrest and deliver an electric shock to help “re-establish” an effective heart rhythm, according to the American Red Cross’ website.
Smith said use of the devices is “really self explanatory,” as they provide instructions and “will walk you right through every step, how to hook it up, how to place the pads, how to push the buttons.”
Arlene Georgakis described Smith as “an angel from Heaven.” She said she has been “getting stronger” since the incident, “not in full recovery yet but getting there.”
Regulski said doctors and nurses at the hospital had been talking about the police officer who saved her mother’s life.
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“It took us a few days to track him down, but we finally did and we’re grateful to meet him tonight,” she said.