Rockville Centre Links hero has saved a life before

Resident who aided heart attack victim on golf course helped boy fight leukemia


Last October, Rockville Centre resident Rod McWalters performed CPR on Dan Lennon, who had suffered a heart attack last year on the 17th hole of the Rockville Centre Links. “As they were closing the doors to the ambulance,” McWalters told the Herald, “one of the EMTs said, ‘He’s alive.’ You couldn’t tell by looking at him.”

This story made its way back into the news when, on Aug. 9, following a full recovery, Lennon scored a hole-in-one at the same hole that he had collapsed on less than a year before.

McWalters had taken a CPR refresher course a few days prior to the incident. He said that the most important thing he learned was to get over the fear of “doing it wrong,” which many people have when it’s time to take action. “They’re already dead,” he said of people who require CPR. “Do something, or else they’ll stay dead. You’re not going to hurt them.”

He pointed out that the save would likely not have been successful without the help of an automated external defibrillator. The AED that McWalters used on Lennon was donated to the golf course by Al Ford, who had donated a number of the life-saving devices to establishments in the village about 10 years ago. In 2013, one of them was used by Ellen White to resuscitate Dan Riordan, who had suffered a heart attack at a basketball game at the Recreation Center.

The devices, McWalters said, “are almost idiot proof. There [are] pictures, there’s a voice from the device that tells you what to do. People shouldn’t be hesitant to use them.”

At village board meeting on Sept. 5, at which McWalters was honored for his heroism last October, he was also recognized for helping save the life of a child with leukemia six years ago.

“I was just coming out of my office for lunch,” he said, “and there was this DKMS table there.” DKMS is an organization that aims to “provide every blood cancer patient with a matching donor,” according to their website. McWalters signed up, submitted a sample, went to get his lunch, and then forgot about it.

“Three years later,” McWalters explained, “I’m out to dinner with my wife and kids, and my cell phone rang.” It was DKMS, who told him that there was a little boy who needed his bone marrow. After a few more medical tests to be sure it was a match, he was in an operating room, making his contribution.

McWalters said that it was a worthwhile experience. “You get inconvenienced to a day,” he said, “but you get to be party to a medical miracle.” He added that everyone should register to be a donor at

At the Sept. 5 meeting, Mayor Francis X. Murray declared September as Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. “We hate to think that something like cancer can happen to children,” Murray said. “It’s a cause near and dear to my heart.”

“By spreading awareness for pediatric cancer,” he added, “we can begin to make a powerful difference in the fight to eliminate this horrible disease.”

After connecting with the family of now 10-year-old Zach from Michigan on Facebook, McWalters gets to see pictures of Zach playing baseball, riding bikes and “being a normal 10-year-old kid.”

“Nothing will make you feel better,” McWalters said, “than finding out that a child, or an adult who wouldn’t have otherwise survived is out in the world, thriving, doing things they enjoy.”