Manitoba man was 'literally dead' when nurse jump-started his heart in Toronto airport

Gimli's Stefan Tergesen says he's lucky to be alive after he had a heart attack in Toronto's Pearson Airport earlier this month.

'It's a miracle to me that we have these technologies,' says man who was saved by an AED machine

Stefan Tergesen of Gimli, Man., had a near-death experience on the way to India. (Submitted by Stefan Tergesen)

Stefan Tergesen remembers the moment he regained consciousness after his heart stopped earlier this month.

"I was on a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance, which, of course, my brain was going, 'What? What? What? What?' and being told my heart had stopped," he told CBC host Marcy Markusa on Information Radio Friday.

The 58-year-old from Gimli, Man., was travelling to India for his goddaughter's wedding when he suffered cardiac arrest.

His flight out of Winnipeg had been delayed and he was rushing through Pearson airport in Toronto to catch his connecting flight.

By the time he got to his gate, he was feeling a little light-headed.

Then his heart stopped.

After he came to terms with what had happened, Tergesen thanked the paramedic caring for him in the ambulance, but learned the man wasn't responsible for saving him after all — a nurse standing in line at the gate had jumped to action.

"He told me that it wasn't him, that I already was conscious when [he] got there. She had jumped in, done CPR and they had gotten one of the AED machines and hooked it up to me and that's what revived me," Tergesen said.

An AED like this one was used to save Stefan Tergesen's life. (Laura Meader/CBC)

He was later told by his doctor that there was no damage done to his heart because of how quickly the nurse — he doesn't know her name — acted to use the defibrillator.

This is especially poignant for him because his elder brother died of a heart attack at 58.

"It's a miracle to me that we have these technologies. I was gone; I was literally dead. Without her there and without that device there, I wouldn't be speaking to you right now," he told Markusa.

Tergesen said not much in his life is going to change after this near-death experience because of a decision he made as a teenager that he doesn't need to almost die to live life to the fullest. 

"I've always taken a 'go for it' approach in life," he said.

However he's still excited to continue "Life 2.0."

As for the nurse who saved Tergesen's life, Air Canada bumped her up to first class.

"I hope they give her first class for life, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

"I'd like to give her a huge hug. Thank you, thank you, thank you." 

With files from Marcy Markusa


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