Monday, November 1, 2010

Texas teen with Asperger's saves his grandfather's life when he has a heart attack behind the wheel

From The Weatherford Democrat in Texas:

WEATHERFORD, Texas —- Quick, calm thinking saved Joe Posavitz’s life this weekend.

Posavitz, 66, was driving his grandson, Ryan Reed, back to Weatherford from a family outing in East Texas Sunday when he went into congestive heart failure and passed out behind the wheel of his 2010 Chevy Equinox. All the other grandkids had been dropped off, leaving Reed, 16, to act fast.

Reed took control of the car, called 9-1-1 and stayed on the line until paramedics arrived. What makes Reed’s actions extra special to his family is he has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.

“[My dad] wouldn’t be here at all if Ryan hadn’t been with him,” Reed’s mother, Lori Gouge, said. “He’s a hero, and we’re so proud of him.”

Reed relayed the details of the incident to his mother. She said he told her they were driving westbound on Interstate 30 in Arlington when Posavitz had to use the restroom. He took the next exit off the highway, but couldn’t make it to the nearest stop, so he relieved himself on the side of the road.

After Posavitz got back behind the wheel, he put the car in drive and went unconscious. Reed told his mother the car jumped the curb and was headed toward a fire hydrant so he grabbed the wheel and turned on the hazard lights.

“He was calm and cool and knew what to do,” Gouge said. “Everyone said it was luck he was the one with my dad.”

Posavitz was taken to Arlington Memorial Hospital where he remains under heavy sedation.

“He doesn’t know what happened yet,” Gouge said. “We hope to take him off the respirator [today] or Friday. It’s going to be a long road to recovery. He’s been sick a while, and it all came to a head Sunday night.”

Reed was featured in an autism awareness article April 17, 2006, in The Weatherford Democrat. The then 11-year-old had difficulty reading facial expressions and social clues, but showed great promise in retaining information. During that interview, Reed listed off detail after detail of historical information dealing with trains.

His passion for trains is something he and his grandfather, Posavitz, have continued to share as they attend a train club twice a month.

“[I] look at it now as a blessing,” Gouge said about her son’s Asperger’s in the 2006 article. “It’s a privilege to see somebody who has a different perspective on things and sees the world around him slightly differently. Instead of it being a disability, I see it as an advantage.”

Reed is now a sophomore at Wedgewood Academy in Fort Worth. He took the day off school Monday, but was excited to get back Tuesday to share his story of heroism with his classmates, Gouge said.

“Ryan is beaming with pride,” she said. “He knows he did a wonderful thing saving someone’s life, and he knows how important that is.”