Meet Our Honouree for the 2024 Event, Stefan Tergesen

As he began his journey, January 4th, 2020, from Winnipeg to India for his goddaughter’s wedding, Stefan Tergesen had an unexpected experience.

“My first flight was delayed, of course, so I ran across Toronto Pearson International Airport with a small backpack and a carry-on bag on my shoulder. I arrived at my gate, and luckily my flight was just starting to board so I wasn’t missing it,” Tergesen recalled. “I put my bag down, took my sweater off, stood up and had a ‘dizzy spell’ similar to one you get when you physically push yourself – I play sports so I’m used to that feeling. The next thing I knew I was in an ambulance and there was someone was telling me that I had had a heart attack,” he continued. “I said, ‘No, I got to make a flight… what are you talking about?’.”

There were no signs that a cardiac arrest would be part of Tergesen’s travel, especially after having lost 20 pounds in his 40s.

“By 40 I realized I was overweight, so I made lifestyle changes,” he said. “I figured that I was healthy because I was following the program, even though my brother had a heart attack at 58, same age as I was.”

Initially three women came to Tergesen’s aid at the airport. Then, a female medic, who was about to board a different flight, found out that help was needed. She performed CPR and used an AED to shock his heart into restarting. Tergesen later had surgery to repair three severely blocked arteries, and a stent was also put in.

“What’s incredible is that the doctor told me there was 95 per cent blockage on one of my arteries which I didn’t know or feel,” he said. “It’s amazing that it can be that bad without really noticing it.”

After three days, Tergesen was released from the hospital. He had to stay in Toronto for a week before he was allowed to fly, but when he arrived home he returned to his job and his regular activities.

“If anything, there was hesitation to push myself as hard as I used to,” he said.

Tergesen, now 62, made a full recovery.

“I’m on a statin (a cholesterol-lowering medication) and a low-dose aspirin,” he said. “I was one of those people who was ‘like a furnace’. I walked outside in the winter without gloves on. Now I get cold easily, so that has to do with the thinning of the blood.”

Tergesen joined the Heart and Stroke Foundation advisory board soon after his cardiac arrest. He is an active person who enjoys activities like walking, cycling, hockey, and curling.

When Tergesen lived in Wildwood Park, he was a member of the Wildwood Club and curled at their multi-sport facility.

Stefan Tergesen is the 2024 Ironman Outdoor Curling Bonspiel honoree.

“This is a fun event for everyone,” Tergesen said of the bonspiel. “I love being outdoors; for years I asked people what their favourite thing to do was, and the majority said it was some sort of activity outdoors.”