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Riner man who survived heart attack says calling 911 early saves lives

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY (WSLS 10) - Just this year, five people have died of cardiac arrest in and around the town of Riner.

That number almost rose to six last February, but the rescue squad was able to get to Thomas Teates just in time to save his life.

Now, Teates and the crew who saved him are speaking out about what signs to look for in an emergency.

Chest pain is common, but that's not what Teates experienced.

He says his heart condition only revealed itself in the form of feeling tired and dizzy.

That's why he and the volunteers who saved his life say if you feel something is out of the ordinary, it's better to call 9-1-1 as soon as possible.

"One minute give or take and he probably wouldn't be here with us today," said Medic Nick Coaelson.

Coaelson says Teates is a walking miracle.

The crew reunited with him Thursday for the first time since saving his life three months ago.

"Only 5 percent of the people that go through what I went through get to talk about it," said Teates.

For Teates, February 28th began like any other day, but that changed when he went to work in the yard.

"He was having problems standing up, lightheadedness, dizziness. He actually passed out in his garden," said Coaelson.

"Sometime later, maybe 10 minutes, I'm not sure, I kind of came to and realized that I needed help," said Teates.

Teates found using his arms and legs difficult.

"I got my saw and things in the cart on the tractor and draped myself over the tractor seat and drove it up the hill, except I was having trouble keeping conscious," said Teates.

Teates made it to his house, where his son then helped him take a shower, then sat him down to rest, all before calling 911.

Coaelson says that was a mistake.

"He waited until the absolute last minute. Started around 2 o'clock, he didn't give us a call until around 6:30... as soon as we got there, within 5 minutes he went into Cardiac Arrest on us in the field," said Coaelson.

Crews worked with lightning speed, calling a helicopter transport.

"From the time we were dispatched to the time that we were at Roanoke Memorial was less than 20 or 25 minutes," said Flight Nurse Alex Wirt.

Coaelson says every one of those minutes was essential for Teates survival.

"Time is muscle, so the sooner they get us there, the sooner we get them to the hospital and into definitive care, then the better the outcome," said Coaelson.

During those 25 minutes, Teates was shocked backed to life three separate times.

After several artery stints, Teates is back to his old self, but he says he's learned an important lesson about when to call 911.

"The most important advice I can give somebody is don't wait, just get it done," said Teates.

Teates says he's never had something like this happen before, so he wasn't prepared on what to do, but Coaelson says it can happen to anyone.

That's why he says it's important to call 911 anytime something feels out of the ordinary, even if it's dizziness or severe fatigue like in Teate's case, because he says rescue crews would much rather respond and have nothing be wrong than get there too late.