Friday, May 13, 2011
Tinley Park Police Chief Michael J. O'Connell dies from complications from heart surgery
O'Connell, 60, died on Wednesday morning reportedly as the result of complications from heart surgery.
His death is a monumental tragedy for Tinley Park, the suburban region and for police as a profession.
I knew him well. The man was genuine, and always so concerned. He played by the book but he also had so much common sense.
I can relate to his experience, too. I had heart surgery last December. I remember laying down on the very narrow marble slab in the operating room at Christ Hospital as the surgeons spoke to me as they put me under with anesthesia. My mind was racing, wondering if I was going to "wake up." I don't know exactly what happened to Chief O'Connell during his surgery at Ingalls Hospital, but I can imagine the concern he would have had about that very same experience. They put you under. They begin the heart surgery. And with an operation on your heart, you can never know what might happen.
I woke up. The nearly seven hours of surgery felt like minutes to me. No dreams. All black. Almost instantaneous but a lifetime to my family who waited outside the operating room and lived every minute of the surgery with apprehension.
O'Connell's death is a major tragedy. Our condolences go out to his family and to the Village of Tinley Park and to Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki, who is one of the region's best mayors.
O'Connell had been on leave for nearly one month due to undisclosed health issues. He sent me an email in December when he heard I had heart surgery myself. Always thinking about other people.
O'Connell began his career as police officer in Riverdale in 1972 and later became the police chief there. He joined the Tinley Park Police Department in 1995.