Lethbridge man reunited with first responders who saved his life, changed his perspective

WATCH: A Lethbridge man is getting the chance to thank the first responders who saved his life just before Christmas, when he suffered a major heart attack during a hockey game with friends. As Emily Olsen reports, the experience has changed his views on integrated emergency services.

Tony Deys doesn’t remember the moments before and after his heart stopped three times. All he knows is that without first responders, he wouldn’t be around to talk about the life-changing event.

“Obviously, on Dec. 15, my life changed forever,” the Lethbridge man said through tears.

On that Sunday in December, Deys was playing hockey with friends at the ATB Centre when he suffered a major heart attack.

“My memory shuts down about two hours before I went to hockey, but from what I understand, I played hockey for about 20 minutes and then went in the dressing room,” he said.

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Deys’ teammate sensed that something was wrong and followed him.

Within minutes, Deys was unresponsive on the floor of the dressing room.

His teammates called 911 and performed CPR until first responders arrived, and Deys said that response is truly what saved his life.

“Instead of having two people performing CPR on me, I had seven people who were performing CPR on me who knew what they were doing,” Deys said.

The first responders who arrived at the rink are part of the integrated response model used in Lethbridge, where firefighters are also trained as paramedics.

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The seamless response approach makes all the difference for those paramedics as well.

“Every time a serious ambulance call comes out, we have two paramedics or a paramedic and an EMT rolling to a call,” paramedic and firefighter Brayden Burton said.

“If it’s serious, the firetruck will come as well which will be more paramedics and more firefighters.”

First responders gave Deys a shot at survival, but he said his recovery has been nothing short of a miracle.

“I’m here today and I probably shouldn’t be.”

Deys’ heart stopped three times that day, and was restarted by paramedics twice on site before he was taken to the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.

It was there that doctors put him in an induced coma.

“Two days later they brought me out of that coma,” he said. “ didn’t know how long I’d been without oxygen.”

Deys is expected to make a full recovery. He says the whole experience has changed his outlook on first responders and the work they do.

“I was one of those ones that, when there was a call and I would see an ambulance and a fire truck, I would think to myself, ‘Why?'”

“And now,” he said tearfully, “I know why.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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