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Va. Teacher Saved by AED, Former Student

LYNNHAVEN, Va. - Some consider Ron Hamilton to be the luckiest man alive.

It's the No. 1 comment from those who hear Hamilton's story about the chain of events that led to saving his life on Feb. 10.

When he woke that day, the 60-year-old Kings Grant resident felt out of sorts.

"It's still a complete blank - I have no memory of this," Hamilton said. "My wife, Martha, was going to work and wondered why I was still in bed. She told me it was time to get up, so when she left I went out for a walk. That's when I collapsed on King's Grant Road."

Jogging past Hamilton's house was Steve Hartz, a retired Navy helicopter rescue pilot and former EMS volunteer.

"He started CPR immediately and called 911," Hamilton said. "That got some oxygen to my brain."

Driving through the neighborhood to check on his vacationing parents' home, Virginia Beach police office Michael Melnyk assessed the scenario and jumped out to help.

In full cardiac arrest, Hamilton was in real trouble when Melnyk used an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to shock his heart back into action.

An ambulance rushed Hamilton to Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.

"They said I kept asking them what day it was," Hamilton said, shaking his head as if to jar loose memories that still escape him.

Dr. Deepak Talreja, cardiologist, and other emergency department staff and physicians acted quickly to stop ongoing heart damage.

"I just happened to be the doctor on call," said 36-year-old Talreja, a Great Neck resident. "Mr. Hamilton was disoriented, disheveled and terrified, but when someone called me by my first name, he sat up and said, 'Deepak? I was your sixth grade English teacher at Cape Henry Collegiate School.'\"

After almost 27 years, Talreja didn't recognize him initially.

"He was just a little more gray, and still looked fit," Talreja said.

Talreja determined that Hamilton needed open-heart surgery within the hour.

Now - nearly four months after his ordeal - Talreja has declared his former teacher's heart healthy and strong.

"He looks so good - he's a real success story," he said. "The city made a very wise decision to put AED units in police cars. They're kind of expensive, but the fact Mr. Hamilton is alive is a tribute to what the city did."

Hamilton and Talreja met recently to discuss the incredible events that gave Hamilton a second chance. Looking at catheterization videos, Hamilton remarked that Talreja always was a good student, always happy and eager to learn - especially about science.

"My wife believes I was not meant to die, that all the men who saved my life were guardian angels," said Hamilton, who's slowly getting back to teaching. "After this happened, another doctor said to me, 'You know, you should be dead right now.'\"

Talreja put his hand on Hamilton's arm. "He was a great teacher to me, and we are what we are because of our teachers," he said.

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