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Jay May didn't recognize the three people who stood next to him near the lectern Thursday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, but he knew why they were there.

"I am only here because these folks are here," May said during an event arranged by airport officials to allow him to meet the travelers who helped save his life after he went into cardiac arrest at the airport last summer. "I want to say thank you. I consider myself one of the luckiest people on Earth."

Cardiac arrest is a condition that causes a victim to lose consciousness, and the heart stops, making CPR necessary. An automated external defibrillator (AED) can be used to shock the heart back into rhythm. Only about 10% of victims survive, said Dr. Haitham Hussein, president of the board of directors for the American Heart Association Twin Cities. Odds of survival double or triple if care is administered in the first few minutes.

Mark Kortesma, a fire captain in Duluth, and his wife, Kirsten, and Kyle Menzel, a physician from Hermantown, Minn., knew how to do CPR. On July 28 at about 9:30 p.m., they were standing near carousel No. 8 when May blacked out and fell to the floor. The trio rushed to his aid and used a defibrillator to give May's heart two shocks and chest compressions by hand until help arrived.

For their efforts, Hussein on Thursday presented them with the Heartsaver Hero Award, given for "performing the heroic act of CPR" during cardiac emergencies.

"Thank you for jumping into action and saving Jay's life. You are inspiring," Hussein said. "We can transform a nation of bystanders into a nation of lifesavers.

This was not May's first time going into cardiac arrest. He suffered his first heart emergency in February 2023 while in a parking lot. A woman administered aid, but it took 10 to 12 minutes for a defibrillator to get to the scene, May said. He recovered after spending time in the hospital.

When he went down at MSP, May's wife, Jennifer, said she thought, "Oh, here we go again."

May said he doesn't remember much about the incident and joked that "he wasn't good at dying." But as May met and hugged his heroes for the first time Thursday, he had a message for them.

"I cannot express the gratitude and how thankful I am to be here today to talk about the experience."

For Mark Kortesma, the reunion brought some assurance that his actions made a difference.

"I've been looking forward to meeting the 'walking miracle' since the chaotic evening of July 28," Kortesma said Thursday. "We have been praying for a positive outcome. Being part of a team of unacquainted strangers who came together for a common cause is a humbling experience."

Many of the first responders from the airport's fire department who treated May attended Thursday's event. The airport's fire department gets about 2,400 calls a year, including about a dozen concerning heart ailments, said acting chief Greg Fuller.

Hussein said the happy outcome underscores the importance of CPR training.

"Thank you for serving as an example," Hussein told the responders. "I hope your work inspires us and encourages us to learn CPR, and to be brave and use it when it is needed."

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of Kyle Menzel.