He was dead on the road for 33 minutes. His fitness helped him recover.

Posted at 10:34 PM, Jul 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-08 05:27:07-04

POWHATAN, Va. -- 33 minutes.

Think about doing anything for half an hour. Driving, reading, running. It's a relatively long time depending on your activity.

It was nearly an eternity for one Powhatan man.

On most Sunday mornings, before many people have even gotten out of bed, Stan Edwards is already in full workout mode.

The Powhatan financial analyst can be found at his local high school, putting the first responders through workouts designed to extend their careers and lives.

By most accounts, Edwards is a fanatic about fitness.

He was dead on the road for 33 minutes. His fitness helped him recover.

He was athletic from a very young age, played football and golf in high school, and went on to play golf at Longwood University.

Stan ran his first marathon in 1991 and has done 26 so far. He's scheduled to compete in his sixth Iron Man Triathalon in September, and has been a vegetarian for a quarter-century.

"He's 11 years older than I am and I thought he'd be pushing me in the wheelchair. He's just super, super healthy and very fitness-minded," Stan's wife said.

"I was that naive guy. I worked out every day. I was a vegetarian. I was doing the right things. There was nothing I had to worry about," Stan said.

Or so he thought.

In August of 2020, Edwards went out for a bike ride while his wife ran an errand out of town. He had to be told what happened next.

"I understand I went across the street, laid my bike down and dropped dead of cardiac arrest," Stan said.

Stan's left anterior descending artery, known as the widowmaker, was 99% blocked.

He was, for all intents and purposes, dead on the side of the road.

"There's no light I saw. Everything was just black. I have no memory from the week before," Stan said.

Four bystanders started CPR for 11 minutes. One of those bystanders was Annie Edwards, who was having a graduation party for her daughter.

"Somebody called and said, 'we can't get into your neighborhood, there's somebody lying there,'" Edwards said.

She just happened to be a critical care nurse, and quickly supervised Stan's resuscitation until the EMTs arrived. They worked on him for another 22 minutes, shocking his heart three times.

In those 33 minutes, no one gave up — even though Edwards had no response to their efforts.

"I had a very strong feeling he was going to make it. He's a healthy guy. He's just had a heart attack. We can fix this," Annie said.

He was dead on the road for 33 minutes. His fitness helped him recover.
Annie Edwards

Edwards was eventually taken to St. Mary's Hospital where he would lay in a coma for 19 days, enduring three blood transfusions and battling two bouts of pneumonia. In total, he spent 33 days in the hospital and seven more in rehab before he was able to return home.

His fitness level prior to the heart attack likely saved his life.

"I think that it tremendously impacted his mindset, his ability to believe that his body could heal, his understanding of his own body and the potential that he had," Annie said.

"I learned there are two parts to fitness: there's the proactive and you'd better be able to react. I don't wish this on anyone else but I do want people to know to take that into consideration," Stan said.

The reality of what he had endured finally hit home during his rehab stay where he had to learn to walk, eat and even touch his nose all over again.

"Reality hit sitting at Sheltering Arms looking out the window knowing there's a walker sitting right there and I have to call somebody to go to the bathroom," Stan said. "Reality hit in there. I cried like a baby going, 'wow, what just happened?'"

Now, having returned from all that, Stan is using his story to wake others up to the same reality. He has started a website and a fitness camp for firefighters, half of whom will succumb to their own bouts of cardiac arrest.

Stan believes this is why he's still here today.

"I can't die on the side of the road for 33 minutes, put my family and friends, everything I put them through and not try to give back and show appreciation, so that's what it's about," Stan said.

"We give all the glory to God because he put every individual in place from the moment it started, from the journey through the hospital and even after we got home," Stan's wife said.

He was dead on the road for 33 minutes. His fitness helped him recover.
Stan Edwards and his wife

"I don't know if lucky is the word. Blessed, very blessed. Favored, looked after and cared for, for sure," Annie said.

"To come home and learn and see the pictures and everything they went through to have to deal with this, I can't fail at this," Stan said.