CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The Fighting Illini may have lost their homecoming game, but one man came out a winner after University of Illinois Police saved his life. Now, one of the heroic officers is sharing his perspective of the intense moment.
Police said a man went into cardiac arrest at the Smith Football Performance Center Saturday morning. Officers Chris Williams and Tara Hurless were working there at the time. Domonic Panozzo and his family were in town for an unofficial recruiting visit, and that’s when Panozzo’s father, Greg, began struggling on the second floor.
“Once we got upstairs, the gentleman was positioned in a seated position in a chair, kind of against the railing of the Smith Center. And he appeared to be struggling to breathe,” Williams said.
Williams said Greg Panozzo went into cardiac arrest and at one point stopped breathing.
“It couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes, 5 to 10 minutes at most,” Williams said. “In the moment, it feels like an absolute eternity.”
He said it brought back similar memories from his childhood, after his grandfather died from a heart attack. But this time, he knew exactly what to do.
“We decided it was a good idea to try and get him onto the floor just in case we had to prepare to do any type of emergency CPR or AED work,” Williams said.
It took several tries with a defibrillator shocking his heart and CPR work, but Panozzo eventually regained consciousness. Williams said his trust in Hurless and their ability to work together made all the difference.
“We were there to communicate with each other. We were there to lift each other up and get each other through the process,” Williams said. “We work well on the street and in the capacity of our jobs. So as cliché as it might sound, it really feels like, being here, you’re working with family.”
Officers said Panozzo was quickly brought to Carle hospital in Champaign and that he is going to be ok. He was unavailable to speak to, but he did leave a comment on the U of I Police Instagram page:
No words can ever express how unbelievably grateful I am for the quick actions of these two officers and U of I staff who took and saved my life. Myself and my family are forever blessed to have these angels in the right place at the right time.Greg Panozzo