Customs Agent Likely Saved Heart Attack Victim at Airport

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Doctors believe a customs agent likely saved the life of a heart attack victim at the Atlanta airport.

John Heilig had just gotten off a plane from Hong Kong and was headed to his connecting flight at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Dec. 11 when he collapsed in the terminal.

"He was lying on the ground unresponsive," recalled Officer John Seebode of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Seebode rushed to Heilig's side and performed CPR while another person ran to get an automated external defibrillator off the wall.  Seebode said he had to shock Heilig with the device several times to restart his heart.

"Everything was normal and I don't remember getting off the plane," said Heilig who did not know what had happened until he woke up in the hospital.

Dr. Chandan Devireddy, an interventional cardiologist at Emory University Hospital Midtown said one of the three main arteries to Heilig's heart was completely blocked.

"So if the passengers and Mr. Seebode had not responded immediately, if the defibrillator was not available, this unfortunately, would have been a very different story," Dr. Devireddy said.

Officer Seebode visited Heilig in the hospital twice to check on him.

"When you have an effect on somebody's life, it's one thing to hear that there was a positive outcome," said Seebode.  "But to actually follow up [...] I think it's just a little more meaningful."

Doctors plan to release Heilig from the hospital on Thursday.