TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A Tucson man who went 17 minutes without a heartbeat reunited with his rescuers and medical team Thursday at Banner University Medical Center.
Robert Freel, 71, suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while driving his car near River Road and Oracle Road last month.
On Thursday, Freel, a retired physiologist, met with two Pima County Sheriff deputies, who performed CPR on him before he was transferred, along with several physicians who helped treat him.
"I had no idea this amount of resources could be coordinated to take care of someone like me," Freel said. "It sounds like it was a pretty desperate situation."
Doctors said Freel was driving alone on Sept. 28 when he passed out. They said his car drifted to a stop and blocked traffic.
Two PCSD deputies found Freel slumped unconscious and performed compression only CPR on Freel and was later transferred to Banner, where they said he was without a heartbeat for 17 minutes.
"It's extremely rare to have a bystander CPR in the field that survived and neurologically intact," said associate professor of medicine Yuval Raz. "There's probably a handful of patients in the country that can claim that."
Freel said he has no recollection of the events leading up to the incident, but he said being able to see everyone, including his daughter Kathleen who was present at Thursday's reunion, has been overwhelming.
"When I did wake up, I was surprised that I was there," Freel said. "There's a whole, you know, four days or so of my life that I have no idea what happened."
Doctors said Freel had to be placed an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation machine, which acts as an artificial heart and lung.
"It was just the worst call you could ever get," said Freel's daughter Kathleen Freel, who came down from Flagstaff to be with her father.
"What has stuck with me through the past month is he said, 'you know, I have stuff I still want to do. I need more time to get stuff done,' and he's grateful," Kathleen Freel said.
Freel was removed from the EMCO machine after only three days. He spent 11 days in the hospital and has since been discharged and has complete neurological function.