NEW YORK (WABC) -- A man from New York City is warning others about heart disease after his heart stopped suddenly during a jog.
Verissimo Costa was the picture of health and completed long-distance runs every day. But one day when he took to his favorite path along the Hudson River last October, his heart suddenly stopped.
"I was clinically dead for a few minutes, like five minutes," Costa said.
For days, doctors didn't know who he was because he was unconscious, and once he came to, he said he never thought it was his heart that would be the problem.
The 42-year-old was physically fit, ate a vegan diet and had consistent physicals.
But all of his healthy habits were not enough. He had a family history of heart disease.
Doctors say most people die after a heart attack like the one Costa experienced. It was thanks to a series of events that helped him beat the odds.
First, two cyclists who spotted his collapse began CPR followed by a fast response from EMTs.
Then at Mount Sinai St. Luke's, Dr. John Puskas, chairman of Cardiovascular surgery, took over.
He worked first to cool Costa's body temperature to help his brain heal. Then he used an innovative heart bypass.
"We did for him a very special operation, one in which we use no veins, we used only arteries for his bypass," Puskas said.
Costa has almost made a full physical recovery, but mentally, he has struggled.
There is fear that his next run might end like that last. So he went back to the place where it ended, now with the support from the surgeon who gave him a new start by mending his heart.
Now Costa has a warning for others:
"No matter how young or healthy, there's still danger if you have a family history of heart disease," he said.
Dr. Puskas said it may require more than a physical to make the diagnosis and not everyone will get a second chance like Costa.