Aruba – A retired New York police officer went above and beyond the call of duty during his vacation in Aruba, when he heroically rushed to the aid of a gravely injured 7-year-old girl, then personally paid for the medical treatment needed to save her life.
Retired New York Police Officer Sean Whelan was out for a bicycle ride on Wednesday when he heard a collision, he explained during an interview with WAPA.
About 30 seconds later, he came upon a large crowd gathered around 7-year-old Jednnielys Perez, who was lying lifelessly on the sidewalk.
Investigators later learned that the child was gravely injured after the 4×4 vehicle she was riding in with her mother, 28-year-old Michelle Rivas, was struck by a tour bus, El Nuevo Dia reported.
During an interview with El Nuevo Dia, Whelan explained that the little girl was “catapulted out of the ATV” during the collision.
“I think the mother had dragged her from the sand to the sidewalk right before I had gotten there,” he explained. “A lot of confusion. A lot of blood.”
She was unresponsive, and had no vital signs, according to the news outlet.
Whelan said he immediately began performing CPR on the child, and tied a towel around her leg as a tourniquet.
He finally saw a glimmer of hope about 15 minutes later, he told WAPA.
“I felt her heartbeat beating a little bit,” he recalled. “She finally started…spitting out a little bit.”
Brushing the sand out of her hair and face, Whelan continued his lifesaving efforts as he spoke to the little girl, comforting her and keeping her calm while they waited for an ambulance to arrive.
Although everyone wanted to help the child, the retired officer struggled to communicate what he needed from them.
“There was a huge language barrier,” he explained. “I was trying to get people to help…with towels and ice and nobody really spoke English there.”
When the ambulance arrived, their protocols required that they stabilize the child before she could be transported.
“To me, there was a little time wasted,” Whelan admitted. “But, the doctors did a great job and they did what they can.”
But Whelan soon learned that there was not much more that local doctors could do to save Jednnielys.
“The doctors can’t do anything else here. They can only stabilize her, keep her medicated, but she won’t be able to get the care because nobody’s paying for it, and these doctors aren’t qualified,” he told WAPA.
“So, I’m not gonna save the girl’s life and then let them…not help for money,” Whelan explained. “There’s no price you can put on a 7-year-old’s life…any price. Let’s get her out of here.”
Whelan then offered to pay the $15,000 needed to transport Jednnielys to Puerto Rico, WNBC reported.
He promised the little girl’s family he would take care of her, and made arrangements to get her moved, he told WAPA.
“I just wanted to be there to make sure that this little angel…is gonna make it back to Puerto Rico safe,” Whelan said. Her parents gave him “full consent” to act as her guardian during the air ambulance transport.
Jednnielys and Whelan arrived in Puerto Rico on Friday, WNBC reported.
She has been listed in critical, but stable condition, according to El Nuevo Dia.
A portion of her lower leg had to be amputated, and she also suffered fractures to her femur and head during the crash. She is being kept in a medically-induced coma.
Whelan said Jednnielys’ survival has been a miracle, and that doctors in Aruba told him twice early on that she would not survive the night.
“She’s part of my family now,” he said.
“I think she is going to get better each day and eventually wake up,” Whelan, who retired from the NYPD 15 years ago, told WAPA. “So, I’m going to stay here until she wakes up, make sure she’s fine, see her smile, and then I can smile.”
“She’s the angel. She’s the miracle girl,” he added. “And if she’s well, then maybe I’m a hero for her.”