Author George Sullivan celebrated his 68th birthday on Monday, thanks to the MIT Campus Police.
"They saved my life, they absolutely did," Sullivan said from his room at Mt. Auburn Hospital. "At the very least, they saved me from severe brain damage."
Sullivan, a member of the Class of 1951 at what was then Cambridge Latin High School, suffered cardiac arrest after delivering the keynote speech at his class's 50th reunion on Saturday night at Walker Memorial. About 130 people were at the reunion.
Sullivan, who suffered a serious heart attack at age 41 and had quadruple bypass surgery last February, said the class considered several hotels before deciding for sentimental reasons to hold the reunion at Walker, where they'd had their senior prom. That decision turned out to be serendipitous for him.
"It could not have happened at a better place," said Sullivan, a former sports columnist for The Boston Herald who has written 12 books. "They got there in no time flat and they did the job. Otherwise I would not be talking with you now."
Sullivan, who felt lightheaded when he began his speech and sat down for the remainder of it, collapsed when he stood up. Campus Police were called at 9:34 p.m.
In less than a minute, Officer Danielle Green was on the scene and noted that Sullivan's breathing was shallow. When Office Jamie DiGregario arrived at 9:35, he saw that Sullivan was ashen and his eyes were frozen in a fixed stare.
"To all intents and purposes, I figured he was dead," said DiGregorio, who immediately shocked him with a defibrillator. DiGregorio, who had trained on the machine but never used it on a patient before, was skeptical. After the first shock, he noted that Sullivan wasn't breathing, so he repositioned Sullivan's head and opened his breathing passages before administering a second electrical shock.
Sullivan's color then improved and he regained consciousness. Campus Police had to restrain him while paramedics from the Professional Ambulance Service inserted an intravenous line and tested his blood sugar.
"I was glad to see him back and alive and kicking," said DiGregorio, who was a Secret Service uniformed police officer before coming to MIT two years ago. "It's really pretty remarkable."
Sullivan was taken to Mt. Auburn by ambulance at 10:02 p.m. He expects to be home today or Thursday.
"We saw a miracle this weekend and MIT was a part of it," said former Cambridge Mayor Francis Duehay, another class member who attended the class reunion.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 5, 2001.