CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – Coral Gables Police Chief Ed Hudak is speaking for the first time about a stroke he suffered recently that could have had serious consequences had he not acted quickly and received help from his family, first responders and Baptist Hospital in Kendall.
In an exclusive interview with CBS4's Peter D'Oench, the 60-year-old Hudak, who has been Coral Gabled PD's chief since 2014 and who has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years, had a strong warning about the coronavirus.
He said, "COVID is killing more cops than all the violence throughout our country geared towards officers. Our numbers are spiking in police departments. Look around our state. I mean 6 to 7 to 8 officers passing away. It's a sobering time. I'm not talking about politics. This is a life and death situation."
Hudak, who is also district director of the Florida Police Chiefs Association for Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, said he recommends that his officers get vaccinated against the coronavirus, but added he cannot require it.
As he took D'Oench on a tour through the new police department headquarters that opened on January 31, he showed D'Oench the Community Intelligence room with its bank of TV monitors showing images of the city and showed him the 911 center and said he wished more could be done to protect his officers.
He said, "I wish everybody would get vaccinated. I am vaccinated since the heart work and I got the 3rd vaccination for myself. I have been around a lot of people who have gotten COVID. I have not gotten it. My comment to my officers if that there may come a time when you need to get vaccinated to work here."
"The second part of it and I have told them is I don't want you to get it because of your job. I want you to get it because of your family. Talk to your doctor and decide what you want to do. It is a medical decision. If you choose not to," he says, "you should have a living will in order. That's what I tell them. And some of these younger officers ask why? And I say what we have seen in law enforcement is that within three days you can be one of those that turn extremely for the worse and you might need to get your affairs in order for your family. Your families are what is important," added Hudak.
Hudak said life is much better compared with happened at 12:30 p.m. on July 29.
"I was driving from a luncheon meeting and something came over me," he said.
Hudak said he went home.
"My wife and daughter were there and I couldn't talk," he said. "So the only symptom I had was I couldn't get my words out."
His wife and daughter recognized that something was wrong.
Hudak said, "Like all macho cops I said, 'No, no, no. Don't call 911.' Which is my biggest takeaway from everything. I don't care how your health is. I am 60 years old. That was probably what saved me from mire damage because I was able to get to the stroke unit at Baptist Hospital which was unbelievable."
He was able to regain his speech and had no paralysis. But he did spend four days in the intensive care unit and two days in the neurological unit.
"It came from an issue with my heart," he said. "I have had a hole in my heart my entire life and my entire athletic career and they fixed that in a day."
Hudak was released from the hospital on August 4 and was able to return to work on August 9. His Facebook post on August 4 with his daughter Jennifer prompted 566 comments from supporters.
He said some people make the mistake of not seeking help.
"Instead of getting help, we say I'll be OK and that could get progressively worse especially with a stroke case," he said.
A spokeswoman for Baptist Hospital said those with symptoms of a stroke or a heart attack should go the hospital and she says Baptist will treat them immediately.
Hudak said, "I was happy to have my family with me too and you start to look at everything you and for me it was kind of a validation. But when you are in the ICU and you look around and you see what everyone is dealing with today and COVID, you realize what the first responders and the health professionals do and you cannot say enough."
He said, "I have heard from retired officers and many others with the University of Miami and through my associations over the years. It was humbling and I can't say enough to know that so many people were praying for me and my family."
WATCH Part 2 Of Peter D'Oench's Interview With Chief Ed Hudak
Hudak is also president of the 200 Club of Greater Miami which helps the families of law enforcement officers and firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
He was a defensive end on the University of Miami football team from 1979 to 1983 and played with star quarterback Jim Kelly. For 30 years he has been on the sidelines at University of Miami football coaches providing security for them and being a mentor to athletes.
Hudak was recruited by former Hurricanes Coach Howard Schnellenberger to come to Miami and play football for the Canes.
"Otherwise," he said, "I might have played football for Penn State."
He will be back on the sidelines again on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta when the Hurricanes take on the University of Alabama.
"Ed Hudak is back," he said. "I don't want to say with a new lease on life but I can't say enough about the men and women with Baptist Hospital system who worked with me and those in the neurological unit."
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