'We look out for each other'

Tim Alexander
Pictured are Jack Baize (left) and his brother, Dean (right).

Sgt. Dean Baize, a 20-year veteran of the Chillicothe Police Department, always looks forward to working Summerfest, that annual, four-day gathering of 10,000 to 12,000 (mostly young) music lovers at Three Sisters Park on Illinois Route 29 south of the town.

“It’s fun to be able to work something like Summerfest; it breaks up the normal routine,” Baize said. “And some of the music is pretty good.”

Dean Baize’s older brother, Jack Baize, a retired Peoria police officer, likes to hang around with Dean while he’s on duty, often seen inching around the park grounds in a golf cart while Dean attends to the inevitable calamities and ne’er-do-wells inherent to large, outdoor music festivals.

“To be honest,” said Jack, who has lived in Peoria since 1974, “I just come to Summerfest because I like to check out all the people.”

When the two met up for a day of police work and people-watching at the festival May 23, neither brother was prepared for the personal calamity that would befall Dean that day while in the line of duty. Laboring while subduing a suspected LSD peddler, Dean, 55, suffered a major heart attack that would later require three bypasses. He’s now on medical leave from the Chillicothe department.

“This kid (Dean was still unaware of the name of the perpetrator, 23 year-old Dustin Waggener, of Canton, Miss., two weeks after his bypass surgery) came up and alleged that another kid had (assaulted) his girlfriend and was selling drugs. The chief had me get some troopies and check it out,” Dean said, while relaxing on the new front deck of his family’s modest, well-kept home not far from Three Sisters Park. A six-inch surgical scar poked out of his button-up shirt collar below his neck.

“We located the suspect, but when the kid went to point him out, I noticed what looked like a full sheet of LSD by his (own) feet. I had put the guy on his knees and had my hand in his pocket when he tried to run. I tackled him and we went to the ground. (Waggener) was all cranked up on something. Nothing that we’re trained to do stopped him or slowed him. My only thought was to just do my job and not let him get away,” Dean recalled.

“When we first went down, I felt a hell of a jolt. I had a lot of pain in my shoulder and my elbow, and when I got up I guess I was acting kind of squirrely.” 

Jack said everyone initially thought his brother had broken his arm, due to the manner in which Dean carried the limb and the location of the pain. However, Dean’s symptoms and range of pain expanded within minutes. Guided by his brother and other officers, the policeman was escorted to an OSF Saint Francis Medical Center mobile medical tent erected on the grounds for tending to the medical needs of those attending Summer Camp.

“I remember the doctor kept saying ‘I don't like what I‘m seeing, I don’t like what I’m seeing,’” Dean recalled.

He was transported to OSF’s main hospital in Peoria, given an EKG and placed in the ICU. An angioplasty was performed the next day, followed by triple-bypass surgery on May 27.

Dean’s recovery is going well. He can often be seen walking for exercise in the neighborhood he and his family has resided in for 15 years and appreciates it when acquaintances honk and wave or give him a thumbs-up. His wife and three children — a son ready for deployment to Afghanistan and senior and freshman girls — help give him the love and support he needs while he recovers. Dean hopes, perhaps a bit optimistically, to be back in uniform within two to two-and-a-half months.

“As soon as I get better I’m going to go back and work as many years as I want to work,” Dean said, defiant in the face of his illness. He even looks forward to his return to Summerfest in 2010. “I'm not going to let people like that run me off,” he said with a tiny hint of a smile.

“We'll see if he’s actually working at Summer Fest. He might have to settle for working in the booking barn,” said Jack, the protective big brother.

“Even if I’m working in the booking barn, I’m still there, and that’s what’s going to count for me,” Dean responded.

Jack’s story

After Dean’s heart attack at Three Sisters Park the two brothers now share another, very personal bond.

Jack Baize retired from the Peoria Police Department following an on-duty cardiac arrest of his own in 2003. He was a 54 year-old, 20-year veteran patrolman for the PPD when he and his partner responded to a call from a woman holed up with her two children in a closet while two men with guns ransacked her house.

“Initially I was the senior officer on the call, so I was in charge of making sure everyone was in position and so forth,” Jack recalled. “One (intruder) had come out of the house and we were ready to send in a team and a dog to get the second guy. An individual pulled up in front of the house with their brights on and I remember yelling at the individual to turn the headlights out, because they were illuminating everyone’s position. 

“The next thing I remember they were wheeling me off of an elevator into cardiovascular surgery intensive care. I asked my wife if I had been shot. My chest hurt like someone had hit me with a baseball bat. I had no idea what had happened.”

After six-bypass surgery, Jack began a long and difficult road to recovery fraught with depression and uncertainty. He hopes his little brother, Dean, does not experience many of the repercussions from heart surgery that he did.

“Because they could not determine the cause of my illness, the doctor said ‘That’s it’ for my law enforcement career,” Jack said. “When I finally felt healthy enough to return to work, I couldn’t find any place that wanted to hire a retired cop on disability. I was starting to exhibit signs of depression.”

Jack said a low point occurred when a large video rental chain store’s corporate office decided he “didn't meet their criteria” for employment. He agreed to go for counseling, and that’s when an opportunity opened up for him that redefined his life goals, occupation and persona.

A vocational rehab counselor recommended he apply for a position with Advocates for Access, then known as the Illinois Center for Independent Living. After meeting with the group and deciding he wasn’t being offered a job out of pity, Jack plunged headlong into his new position as personal assistant coordinator, training and referring home health care specialists for people with disabilities.

Jack’s thoughts are now occupied with political maneuverings and State of Illinois budget measures affecting health care for the disabled. He's worried that the new state budget could force agencies like Advocates for Access to shutter or greatly curtail their services.

“We’re totally supported by state and federal grants,” Jack explained. “(The State) may cut the Department of Home Services by as much as 75 percent. A whole lot of people will be out of jobs, and a lot of people with disabilities will not get the services they need.” 

Jack said that, in a way, he’s glad he had his heart attack in 2003 and fought back in order to help Dean overcome the obstacles he is facing.

“I’m real thankful for having gone through that and to be able to be here while Dean recovers, because I was able to kind of let him know what to expect as time passes,” he said.

Dean said he’s very thankful for Jack’s support. The two brothers had become close only in recent years, and shared health problems have now brought them even closer together. “I believe in my big brother. We look out for each other,” said Dean, flashing a genuine smile for the first time during the interview.

Dean said he is also thankful for the support of his “other” family, the law enforcement community. One of the few things he recalls about his trip to the ICU following his heart attack was the overwhelming presence at the hospital of his fellow officers from the city, county and state.

“There was blue and brown everywhere,” he said, referring to the officers’ uniform colors. “It’s gratifying to know that you are part of such a family.”