By David Sedeño
The Texas Catholic
To hear Sue Heflin tell it, God’s hands on earth worked a miracle and saved her husband Ron’s life on Jan. 27.
To the Catholic faithful attending Mass, other liturgies or events throughout the Diocese of Dallas, photographer Ron Heflin, 74, is a familiar face. He has worked as a freelancer with The Texas Catholic for several years, not long after retiring from a storied career with The Associated Press where for more than 25 years he covered news events, big and small, in Texas and across the country.
On Jan. 27, Ron arrived at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe a couple of hours before the start of the Bishop’s Awards for Service to the Church Mass, where Ron was to photograph the honorees receiving their awards from Bishop Edward J. Burns. Long before others arrived at the cathedral, Ron had already checked his lighting and had set up his post-production equipment in the cathedral’s gran salon to facilitate photography orders for the recipients and their families after the Mass.
As Mass was ending in the cathedral, Ron collapsed onto his computer and table in the gran salon. His wife yelled, “Ron!” prompting a gentleman to rush to help Ron and place him on the floor. Quickly, others rushed to try to help.
At that moment, Dallas SWAT Officer Darian Loera came upon the scene. He was there to see his parents Raquel and Jesús Loera receive awards for their service at the cathedral where they are parishioners. He had slipped out of church after Communion to feed an expired parking meter and was returning to the cathedral complex.
He identified himself as a Dallas police officer and then began doing CPR on Ron as best as he remembered. Although Loera has some medical training as a SWAT officer, he was praying for someone else to help him.
“Then all of a sudden, this woman comes up to my side and says, ‘I’m a nurse’,” he said. “I was praying for an angel and then she was there.”
The angel’s name was Magali Reynoso, 31, a registered nurse whose sister Giovana Ascencio of Mary Immaculate was being honored.
Reynoso was not going to go to the Mass because of pain from a wisdom tooth. Her mother convinced her to go to the Mass, but Reynoso was in and out of the church because she was dizzy and was taking care of her sister’s toddler daughter. Reynoso walked out as Mass was ending and heard someone call for a doctor or a nurse.
“I handed my niece, my purse and my cellphone to a lady, I don’t even know who she was, and I rushed to ‘Mr. Ron’,” she said. “In a split second, she said, a church worker arrived with a defibrillator.
“When I got to him, he wasn’t breathing. He didn’t have a pulse,” she said. “At the time, I was only trying to get him to get a pulse and honestly, nothing crossed my mind but trying to help him.”
She set up the defibrillator and they began working on Ron collectively. Loera did chest compressions while Reynoso operated the defibrillator and then performed mouth-to-mouth to try to get Ron’s heart started and him breathing.
Within a few minutes, Dallas paramedics arrived, took over and then transfered Ron into the ambulance and headed to the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center. Doctors stabilized him and then cleared major blockage going to his heart.
By that evening, Ron was alert, saying that he hoped to be released within 24 hours and asked about other assignments. By Sunday morning, Jan. 28, he was walking, joking and asking for his laptop. That afternoon, Bishop Burns, the publisher of The Texas Catholic, visited him at the hospital, took a selfie with him and ordered him to get some rest.
Ron is not one who seeks attention, but his wife said the attention should be on those who helped him.
“I know if things would have turned out differently, it would have been the way Ron would have wanted,” she said. “He was at church and he was working. But I thank God for working through His hands on earth for Ron.”
Bishop Burns in a social media post thanked Loera and Reynoso for their “heroic actions.”
The two say they were merely doing what they felt they were called to do at that moment.
“I love my sister, but the pain was so bad that I didn’t even want to be there at the Mass, but maybe it was a blessing for me to be there that day,” she said.
Loera, 41, is himself recuperating from a leg wound suffered during a SWAT operation in November. He has undergone six surgeries. In the back of his mind, he said, his helping Ron was paying back what his SWAT teammates did for him several months ago.
The Heflins hope to meet Loera and Reynoso soon to properly thank them.
And as for those photographs of the recipients that Ron took and was scheduled to deliver on Saturday: the consummate professional had posted them online within 48 hours of his cardiac arrest — from his hospital room.