Saskatoon

Saskatoon man who suffered cardiac arrest during basketball game reunited with heroic bystanders

Vincent Bitusis was saved by two bystanders after going into cardiac arrest during a basketball game. Yesterday, he got his first chance to thank them in person for giving him a second chance at life.

Yesterday was the first time Vincent Bitusis got to meet the women who saved his life

On Dec. 3, two bystanders, Elaine Brecelj (L) and Karen Villanoa (R), were watching a recreational basketball game at Holy Cross High School in Saskatoon when they witnessed Vincent Bitusis (centre) go into cardiac arrest. (CBC's Saskatoon Morning)

A basketballer and two spectators are "connected forever" after some quick action saved the player when he went into cardiac arrest.

No words can describe how one would feel, after seeing somebody who you tried to revive and for them to actually be right there standing beside you.- Elaine Brecelj

On Dec. 3, Vincent Bitusis was playing a recreation basketball game at Holy Cross High School in Saskatoon. Three minutes in, "all of a sudden, I look around, looking for my opening, and that's when my vision started [blurring] and that's the last time I remember," the 38-year-old told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

He collapsed on the floor.

That's when spectators Elaine Brecelj and Karen Villanoa stepped into action.

"When I saw him, it's like automatic: I just rushed over to him," said Villanoa. She checked his pulse and felt nothing.

"Everyone was starting to panic and it was just terrifying."

The women used CPR and a defibrillator to jump-start his heart.

Reunited with rescuers

Saskatoon MD Ambulance said Bitusis would have died without the intervention of the two bystanders.

Yesterday, Bitusis ​got his first chance to thank Brecelj and Villanoa in person for giving him a second chance at life, when MD Ambulance held a special ceremony to acknowledge the women for their action.

"It was very overwhelming, actually," said Brecelj.

"No words can describe how one would feel after seeing somebody who you tried to revive and for them to actually be right there standing beside you."

Bitusis said he "felt so good" when he saw them and to be able to say "thank you" in person.

Brecelj added that: "Life is something that needs to be cherished, every minute, every second of every day. We were able to give him that gift of life again and we appreciate that."

She said the three plan to stay in touch in the future.

"One thing that I said to Vincent when I first talked to him over the phone was: 'Well, now we're connected forever.'"

With files from CBC's Saskatoon Morning