When a nurse put a finger on the tracheal tube in Police Officer Daniel O'Sullivan's throat and said, "Daniel, say hello," and the handsome young cop responded, "Hello," his anguished parents wept at the miracle. Officer O'Sullivan is the Good Samaritan Cop who was helping a motorist in distress on the Grand Central Parkway when he was struck by a drunken driver and sustained traumatic brain injury. He had been in a coma for a month, not expected to live. When he spoke for the first time, he was on his way to surgery to replace a piece of his skull.
Other miracles have followed, his father, Edward O'Sullivan, told me. After five weeks in New York Hospital Medical Center in Queens and seven weeks in Kessler Institute in East Orange, N.J., where he celebrated his 26th birthday on Feb. 19, Danny O'Sullivan is home with his parents in New Hyde Park.
They marvel at the progress their youngest son has made. "He has no problems with speech and language, he's walking without assistance," his father said. He has a big problem with memory, however. He doesn't even remember that terrible night on the Grand Central Parkway. He knows only what he's been told or read.
Now the gutsy young cop is embarking on treatment that will have him at Transitions of Long Island from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week in a cognitive program, in his father's words, "trying to place things in order" in his brain.
Ed O'Sullivan breaks down periodically when he talks about the tragedy. "The only thing that has pulled him through are the prayers." Those have come from friends, relatives and strangers. "A lot of people have been touched by his act, or by him personally," Mr. O'Sullivan said. Being a Good Samaritan didn't surprise those close to him, though. He often stopped to help motorists on the New Jersey Turnpike on his way home from Towson State in Maryland where he graduated cum laude.
Mr. O'Sullivan speaks of "good things that have come out of the tragedy" and says, "There was a reason for it happening. God had a reason for saving him."
There are letters from strangers, many of them promising to pray to Padre Pio for Daniel. One person even sent a first-class relic. There was the stranger who came to the hospital one Sunday morning with a 2-foot statue of St. Michael the Archangel, patron of police officers, in a supermarket bag and quickly disappeared.
Mr. O'Sullivan spoke to Detective Steven McDonald at a Mass for healing to which the paralyzed hero cop invited Daniel and his family. "Little coincidences," Mr. O'Sullivan calls the "connections between people happening through this tragedy." Steven McDonald corrected him. "They're not coincidences, they're God incidents," he said. The O'Sullivans believe that.
There was a Mass for healing in Our Lady of Victory Church in the Wall Street area arranged by Mr. O'Sullivan's colleagues at Pershing and Co. and attended by Police Commissioner Howard Safir. And Father James Williams from Chaminade High School in Mineola, where Mrs. O'Sullivan is receptionist and attendance secretary, brought the couple Communion daily during their hospital vigil.
The O'Sullivans are convinced that the prayers have pushed their son step-by-step toward recovery. A recent Good Morning America TV segment was filmed at Kessler Institute and focused on Daniel. At a simulated supermarket he made selections from the shelves. The moment of triumph came when he noticed that the cashier had short-changed him. More tears of joy from Jan and Ed O'Sullivan.
What are his hopes now, I asked Mr. O'Sullivan, gently.
"That I get my son back 100 percent," he said fervently. "But what's going to happen is impossible to know.
"First of all," said this man of faith, "we have him. Whatever God gives us in the future, we'll accept."