Off-duty officers credited with saving boy's life

Philadelphia police Officers John Pasquarello, left, and John Callahan, right, are credited with saving the life of a 9-year-old boy two weeks ago.

Two off-duty Philadelphia police officers saved a 9-year-old boy’s life two weeks ago when he collapsed at baseball practice and stopped breathing, according to the child’s mother, Micki Ramos.

“They really don’t think they did anything extraordinary but they have no idea that my son wouldn’t be here without them,” she said. “I don’t know how much bigger you get than that.”

Tommy “TJ” Ramos, a 9-year-old catcher with the Torresdale Boys Club, had just stepped on to the field on Leon Street near Eden for practice around 6 p.m. Sept. 12 when he collapsed for no explicable reason.

“He went down on his face. It looked like a seizure,” Micki Ramos said. “I completely freaked.”

Luckily, off-duty K-9 Ofc. John Callahan, a coach with the team, and Gang Unit Ofc. John Pasquarello, who was off-duty watching his own son practice, jumped in to action. Another coach called 911.

“At first I thought it was a seizure. He was very stiff and he had grass in his hand when I rolled him over,” Callahan said.

The officers said TJ had stopped breathing, his eyes rolled back in his head and his lips turned purple. That’s when they began CPR, with Callahan administering mouth-to-mouth and Pasquarello doing compressions until an ambulance arrived.

“They stayed with him the whole time,” Ramos said. “I was balling and couldn’t even focus.”

Ramos rode in the ambulance with her son and Callahan drove her husband, Carlos, to the hospital. Ramos said both officers stayed with the family at Aria Health’s Torresdale campus for hours.

“They just said ‘What do you need us to do?’” she said. “I know it could not have been comfortable for them to sit there with me while I cried my eyes out.”

TJ was eventually transferred to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where doctors diagnosed him with catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT), a disease which Ramos said is a genetic heart condition. She said with the disease, as TJ’s heart rate and adrenaline increase, the bottom two chambers of his heart spin out of control and cause him to pass out.

Last Wednesday, TJ had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) surgically installed in his heart. The device is like a pacemaker and defibrillator combined, so that if TJ’s heart ever stops again, the device should automatically restart it, Ramos said.

She hasn’t yet been able to bring herself to tell TJ that because of the device he will never be able to play contact sports again, nor can he be within six inches of a cell phone or video game, which could set the device off, she said.

But TJ has his life and Ramos has her TJ, thanks, she says, to the two officers who were calm under pressure.

“If they didn’t intervene, most likely my son wouldn’t be here,” she said. “All the doctors are telling me that we’re very, very lucky they not only knew CPR but actually did it because some people freeze.”

Pasquarello said he was just applying the training he had learned to save a life and he just wishes more people would take a CPR class.

“Before, TJ was just another child on my son’s team,” Pasquarello said. “Now, he’s going to be my buddy for the rest of my life.”