Mark and Lisa Sweaney with their children
Lisa Elaine (Pizzo) Sweaney
Lisa Elaine (Pizzo) Sweaney, a dedicated St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer for more than 20 years, passed away on Sunday, January 20, 2013 at the age of 47. She had been in the ICU at Saint Louis University Hospital, battling cholestatic biliary hepatitis, a rare liver disease. Sadly, the only cure for this disease is a liver transplant, which Lisa never received.
Lisa’s family – including her husband and four children – has been grieving her untimely death for the last several months. To honor her memory and pay homage to her life, career and legacy, they wanted to share Lisa’s story with her friends, colleagues and other first responders in the region.
The following tribute was thoughtfully written by Lisa’s husband, Mark Sweaney, EMTP, paramedic supervisor for the St. Louis City Department.
Lisa and I met while she was a police dispatcher and I was an EMS supervisor in 1990.
Our first date was to a Cardinals game. While we were dating, she was accepted to the police academy in 1992. I spent several minutes on the floor simulating a ‘bad guy’ while she practiced taking us down and cuffing us. At least I think she was practicing.
Lisa graduated from the academy in 1993 and went to the third police district. I was working on the streets of St. Louis as well, and happened to work her first medical examiners case.
She didn’t realize he was dead and after seeing EMS not moving to transport the patient she came to ask were we taking him. She sure was surprised when I told her the patient was dead. After that, she wanted to learn first aid, CPR, childbirth, and how to tell if a person had expired.
Lisa enjoyed being a police officer and I was very proud of her. She was only 5’ 2” and 110 pounds, but big things come in small packages. She didn’t have any fears on the streets.
I’m sure I was afraid for her many more times than she was for herself.
Her partners trusted her to watch their backs, and her commanders liked her and knew they could count on her.
Even the bad guys learned to at least respect her if not fear her as well.
Lisa was awarded ‘Officer of the Month’ several times. She was fair and would try and help the unfortunate in many ways, from helping find shelter to buying them food or clothes. She was honest, loyal and caring.
I watched all of her qualities as a police officer and as a single mother to her two oldest sons, Damon and Mike. I was impressed with how she took care of them and was very protective. She had a great sense of humor, and we thought alike, often saying the same thing at the same time. She had all the qualities I was looking for, not to mention being incredibly beautiful. So I asked her to marry me, and we tied the knot on June 6, 1995.
We had two children together, Sam and Sarah, along with a number of animals – four cats, a dog, and a bird. She was a great mother, a good wife, and my best friend.
I have been with St. Louis EMS for almost 34 years now. I started as an EMT, then paramedic, and supervisor since 1986. I too, love my profession. Lisa and I used to say, ‘For a good time, call 911. One of us might show up.’ I can remember when one of my crews called me and told me they had Lisa after she had been in an accident.
Or when I would hear a call for an officer-involved shooting, and how worried I would be until I heard from Lisa. It was always good to get home and see her.
Lisa ended her career as the public affairs officer in the ninth police district. This took some of the worry away and got her on a regular schedule which helped with the kids and school. She enjoyed the community work and meeting and working with the business owners (quite the change from dealing with the ‘bad guys’). She was not ready to retire, and certainly didn’t want to go out like this. She felt like she had a few more good years in her, until the liver disease came along and changed those plans. However, she stayed tough and positive until the very end.
When she died, word got around quickly. The support of the police department, EMS, the fire department, and of course many friends and family began to pour in.
Our church, the kids’ school, the Police Wives Association and Police Officers Association were there for us, too. They all fed us, helped give Lisa a beautiful service, and took care of us any way they could. People are wonderful sometimes, and so many people couldn’t do enough to help. It was wonderfully overwhelming.
I was certainly not ready for this life changing event. Of course, no one ever is. But life happens, and we must go on. Sam and Sarah are wonderful kids and have been surprisingly strong and resilient. They have grown up a lot and probably take care of me as much as I take care of them.
My faith has certainly been tested through all of this. This is not what I prayed for. But I do continue to hope and pray that God has a plan and He needed Lisa to help carry it out. She is the type that will be missed by many.
The turnout at the visitation and funeral, the cards, phone calls, and emails and Facebook posts were a testament to that and have meant a lot to us. This let us know that we are loved and not alone getting through this.
I would like to encourage everyone to consider being an organ donor. You never think it will happen, but again, life happens. It may have saved Lisa’s life as it has many others.
Even someone not in the ‘life-saving’ business can make a miracle happen for someone in need.”
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