Daniel Wright, ex-‘Biggest Loser’ contestant, dies at 30

The Biggest Loser alum Daniel Wright, who competed on Season 7 and 8 of the weight-loss competition show, passed away on Sunday, May 26. He was 30 years old.

According to a GoFundMe page published in December 2017 and set up in his name, Wright had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia two months earlier.

He underwent chemotherapy and many blood transfusions as part of his treatment.

READ MORE: Bob Harper, fitness trainer and ‘Biggest Loser’ host, suffers heart attack

Wright and his wife put their jobs on hold at the time because he required constant care “due to the nature of his treatment and amount of time in the hospital.”

“Treatment is an intense 6 months with 8 rounds of chemo every 21 days requiring hospital stays each round for at least a week. These past 2 months could easily be compared to a roller coaster,” the GoFundMe page read.

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Wright’s leukemia had relapsed in December 2018.

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Many of Wright’s former castmates took to social media to mourn the loss of their friend.

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Danny Cahill posted a tribute to Wright on Facebook, saying, “Daniel’s light has always been one of Grace, encouragement, wisdom, love and honour throughout the time I have known him.”

“Yesterday the world lost a bit of its light. Daniel Wright and I met for the first time in May of 2009 on the beach in Malibu. 15 of us went to the beach that morning to begin our journey on season 8 of The Biggest Loser,” Cahill recalled. “Our 16th contestant was driven up to the starting position of that first 1-mile race (which he won) and out popped Daniel. ‘Hey guys!!!’ He yelled as he jogged over to us. Little did I know the effect this man would have on my life.”

He continued: “I can honestly say that because of him I am a better man. He showed me (by example – not by telling me) how to care for others in a different way, and I thank God for being able to know this man for the 10 years I have known him. We could all learn a lesson from him how important it is to leave a mark of love on those we meet, to lay down differences and to see similarities, and to serve those around us in any way we can.”

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Courtney Crozier Respess of Season 11 wrote, “I am so so heartbroken to hear about Daniel Wright this morning. He has fought SO HARD during his battle with cancer & more. This man is one of the kindest people I have ever met & is a true difference maker in this world! His faith has never faded, even in the darkest of times. I am honored to have known him!!!”

She also referred to Wright’s wife Rebecca Wright, asking her followers to “please keep him & his beautiful, amazing, and beyond strong wife Rebecca Wright in your prayers today as he is being called to heaven. Rebecca will need all of us to lift her up now & for months & years to come.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Wife of Late Biggest Loser Contestant Damien Gurganious: He ‘Was Made Especially for Me’

Parris Whittingham

Damien Gurganious planned to take his wife out for Peruvian food and a movie once he got out of the hospital after being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease last month.

Instead, on Nov. 24, “he passed away on my birthday,” Nicole Brewer-Gurganious, his wife and fellow Biggest Loser contestant, tells PEOPLE. He leaves behind their 2-year-old daughter, Giselle.

“Damien had a way of making every day feel like your birthday,” says Brewer-Gurganious, 44. “He loved life and treated every day as if it were a gift.”

The shocking death of the Brooklyn-born industrial designer comes after he maintained his weight loss in the wake of competing on The Biggest Loser: Couples 2 in 2009 with Brewer-Gurganious.

The pair wed in August 2009, and together became certified group fitness instructors after the show.

“He encouraged and motivated people no matter their size or age,” Brewer-Gurganious says of her husband, who developed challenging aqua boot camp sessions for 24 Hour Fitness and the YMCA. “His classes were packed with people eager to soak up all of his positive energy, contagious enthusiasm and amazing smile.”

Image zoom Damien Gurganious and Nicole Brewer-Gurganious Courtesy Gurganious Family

Gurganious’s medical crisis began on Nov. 20, two days after his 38th birthday, when he suffered a nosebleed and his mouth became swollen. He had a hard time swallowing. He thought he had an allergic reaction to some soup he ate, so he went to the ER hoping a shot of epinephrine would alleviate the problem. A day later, “we discovered his blood platelets were alarmingly low,” Brewer-Gurganious says, and Gurganious was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, a rare autoimmune disorder.

Doctors said treatment for ITP could restore blood platelets and “he could live with the disease as we now know many people do,” Brewer-Gurganious says.

Encouraged, Gurganious made birthday plans with his wife, but the disease caused bleeding in his brain, and he died four days after he was admitted.

Trainer Bob Harper wrote on Facebook Friday: “Such sad news about a Biggest Loser family member passing so unexpectedly. Damien had such a great spirit and dynamic personality. My heart goes out to his wife, Nicole, and daughter, Giselle. RIP, Damien, I know you are making the Angels laugh. #brooklynlove.”

Brewer-Gurganious, a wardrobe stylist, says that she and Gurganious, whom she met in 2006, had dreamed of becoming parents, and at least he was able to see that happen.

“Watching my husband with Giselle was the most rewarding part of our journey to parenthood and our marriage,” she says. “She would light up in his presence as if no one else existed in the world. My favorite memory of them was as Giselle started talking and learning new words, he would reward her with a huge hug and flip in the air. She couldn’t wait to say “apple,” just waiting for her ride to the sky with daddy!”

Image zoom Damien Gurganious and daughter Giselle Courtesy Gurganious Family

As for how their daughter is doing, Brewer-Gurganious says that “while Giselle may not remember all of this, it will be my duty to keep her father on the tip of my tongue, sharing stories and reminding her of all the dreams he had for our family.”

NBC confirmed to PEOPLE that the network would acknowledge Gurganious during the Dec. 11 episode of The Biggest Loser.

Meanwhile, friends have started an online fundraiser at YouCaring.com to provide Brewer-Gurganious and her daughter financial aid in the wake of their sudden loss, to help them have time to grieve.

“Damien was the love of my life – I waited my entire life for him,” she says. “Damien was made especially for me. I simply cannot imagine living without him.”

When The Biggest Loser returns to TV on January 28 on USA, the popular series will be helmed by a very familiar face. Bob Harper—who fans might recognize from his time as a trainer on the show for 16 seasons and the host of the 17th season in 2016—will be the host/cheerleader/general all-around inspiration once again for a new set of 12 contestants fighting to transform themselves physically and mentally.

Bob is no stranger to transformations himself. The personal trainer worked with celebrities in Los Angeles before joining the reality show in 2004, and after a near-fatal heart attack in 2017, Bob has been very open about his journey back to health. “Change is hard in any way or capacity,” he told Men’s Health.

“I have always been a control freak—I like to say control enthusiast—and when I suffered my heart attack, I realized I needed to relinquish control and be vulnerable and open and honest with myself. It’s been something that has been a process.”

Here, everything you need to know about Bob before his enthusiastic return to The Biggest Loser this month.

He started his career as a celebrity personal trainer.

Despite not being especially involved with sports in high school, Bob moved to LA from his hometown in Tennessee and started working with celebrity clients, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, TV Guide reports. He is certified as a fitness instructor by the American Fitness Training of Athletics and with the Aerobic and Fitness Association of America. In addition to his personal training, Bob also appeared as an extra in the music video for the Melissa Etheridge song “Angels Would Fall.” (Peep Bob at 1:02 in the YouTube video below.)

Bob has been a part of every season of The Biggest Loser thus far.

The New York Times bestselling author started as a trainer from day one of the reality show, alongside Jillian Michaels. Despite the season-one winner being a member of Jillian’s red team, Bob has been a staple of the show ever since. While at times a little intense (anyone else remember his blow up at contestant Joelle in season two?), Bob has been there for contestants dating back to 2004.

He publicly came out on an episode of The Biggest Loser.

While Bob came out to his parents as a teenager, Entertainment Weekly reports, he didn’t talk about his sexuality on the show until the 15th season. It was a contestant, Bobby, who inspired Bob to share his story on national television. The contestant, who came from a strict Catholic family, had been struggling to come out to his parents, and after a particularly impactful visit to The Biggest Loser ranch by Bobby’s family, Bob opened up about his own journey.

“I want to show Bobby that he doesn’t have to live in shame,” he said. “Being gay doesn’t mean being weak and being gay doesn’t mean you’re less than anybody else. It’s just who you are.”

Bob and his boyfriend Anton Gutierrez got engaged this past July, Us Weekly reported at the time. (Cross your fingers for a wedding at The Ranch this season.)

He was once named PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity.

Bob’s plant-based diet not only helps him out in the gym, but it also paid off in 2010 when

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) named him their male “Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity.” Coincidentally, he went full vegan that same year. (He also followed a paleo diet for a while.) “I enjoy living a plant-based diet because it makes me feel clear-headed and strong, not to mention my genetically high cholesterol dropped more than 100 points. That was all the motivation I needed,” he told VegNews at the time.

View this post on Instagram

Sweating it out in my hot yoga class. Feels so good!

A post shared by Bob Harper (@bobharper) on Sep 21, 2018 at 10:57am PDT

The heart attack that almost killed him was the “biggest shock” of his life.

On February 12, 2017, Bob was working out at his CrossFit gym as usual when he suddenly fell to the floor. He told Today that he woke up in the hospital two days later with no recollection of the incident.

Being told that he had suffered from a heart attack and cardiac arrest was the “biggest shock of my life,” he said. Like most people, the trainer had assumed that, as someone who had built his career on wellness, a heart attack was unlikely, but he learned afterward that he carries large amounts of the protein Lipoprotein(a) in his blood. He’s genetically predisposed to having high amounts of the protein, and it means that he is at high risk of cardiac arrest—regardless of his exercise habits, he explained to People.

The near-death experience has also helped him gain a new perspective.

The personal trainer told Today that, at first, he was afraid to work out again. He changed his diet (check it out in his book The Super Carb Diet) and added more low-key workouts to his normal CrossFit-heavy gym rotation. He also took to Instagram recently to show off his CPR AED certification card, two things that helped save his life during his heart attack.

“My life is completely different now,” he said. “My life is about appreciation and gratitude. It is about balance. It’s about not sweating the big things and definitely not sweating the small things. I know how short life can be. I know that it could all be taken away in the blink of an eye.”

Bob says the new season of The Biggest Loser will be more about wellness and less about the numbers.

While previous seasons of the show have been criticized for its extreme weight-loss methods, Bob told People that this upcoming season will take a more holistic approach to health and wellness. With a larger focus on aftercare this season, the host said that viewers will see contestants working toward being healthy rather than being skinny this time around.

“Strength isn’t about being the toughest,” Bob said in an Instagram video promoting the new season. “Strength is about reaching inside to find the courage to make a change to be best you that you can be.”

Ever since suffering a massive “widowmaker” heart attack in February, 51-year-old “The Biggest Loser” trainer Bob Harper has been using his platform to speak out about heart-healthy habits, heart attack recovery, and the steps anyone can take to help a heart attack victim. His latest knowledge-drop? The warning signs of a heart attack — including the ones he ignored himself.

View this post on Instagram

I love him.

A post shared by Bob Harper (@bobharper) on Apr 11, 2017 at 7:48pm PDT

“I fainted one time in the gym,” Harper revealed during an appearance on the late-night show “Watch What Happens With Andy Cohen” on Tuesday. “I started having these dizzy spells, and I just kind of overlooked them.”

Yep, there are other warning signs than just chest pains. Heart attack symptoms include chest discomfort (think: pressure, fullness, or pain), similar discomfort in other parts of the upper body (such as the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach), shortness of breath, lightheadedness, cold sweats, and nausea, the American Heart Assocation (AHA) reports.

View this post on Instagram

VOTE!! It’s our responsibility. #strongertogether #imwithher

A post shared by Bob Harper (@bobharper) on Nov 8, 2016 at 11:52am PST

And symptoms differ slightly for men and women: Women can have a heart attack without having experienced any of the common chest pains, and they’re more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain, according to the AHA.

Why is it so important to know these warning signs? Because approximately 790,000 people have a heart attack in the United States each year, according to the American Heart Association’s 2017 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update, and knowing the signs could mean the difference between life and death for you or another heart attack victim.

Although Harper was lucky and survived despite the odds — during a recent appearance on the TODAY show, he revealed he had only been given a 6% chance of survival — the trainer says he seriously regrets not being able to recognize the warning signs sooner.

He certainly learned from his mistake — and we all can, too.

[h/t ET Online

Heather Finn Content Strategy Editor Heather Finn is the content strategy editor at Good Housekeeping, where she heads up the brand’s social media strategy and covers entertainment news on everything from ABC’s ‘The Good Doctor’ to Netflix’s latest true crime documentaries.

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‘Biggest Loser’ Trainer Bob Harper Opens Up About His Heart Attack: ‘I Was Dead’

Bob Harper is opening up about the medical emergency that nearly took his life.

The former “Biggest Loser” trainer appeared on “The Today Show” Tuesday to talk about the February 12 incident. Harper was working out at a gym when he suffered a heart attack and went into full cardiac arrest.

“My heart stopped,” the 51-year-old told host Savannah Guthrie. “Not to be dramatic, but I was dead. I was on that ground dead.”

Harper doesn’t remember much from the incident. He was unconscious for two days and experienced short-term memory loss.

“I don’t remember that day at all,” he said. “I was told I went to the gym as I always do. It was Sunday morning, I was working out with some friends of mine at the end of the workout I went down to the ground.”

“If you’ve ever done CrossFit, you know that sometimes people go down to the ground,” Harper continued. “It wasn’t until a minute or so later that people realized that something was going on.”

Fortunately, staff quickly located two doctors.

“I was so lucky. Thank God. They started performing CPR on me, they pulled out the AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) and used that on my twice before the paramedics got there super quick and they jolting me one more time. I will never ever walk into a gym again that doesn’t have CPR, people that know their CPR, and there’s an AED somewhere in that gym.”

The heart attack Harper suffered is called a “widow-maker” due to its low survival rate. Harper considers himself very lucky but admits to struggling with the aftermath mentally.

“I am going through some depression,” Harper admitted. “You really face your mortality. And I’m really understanding what’s not important and what’s really important in life.”

Physically, he’s on the mend and does cardiac rehab three times a week.

On Wednesday, Harper will be back live in the “Today” studio with Dr. Oz with tips to help save someone having a heart attack.

Check out Harper’s full interview here or above.

Getty Images

Bob Harper was placed in a medically induced coma to give his heart a chance to rest after suffering a near-fatal heart attack while working out.

Until about a year ago, health and fitness expert Bob Harper would have told you that for him, a heart attack was out of the question. “I’ve been in the health and fitness industry more than 25 years. When I found out I had a heart attack, it was baffling to me,” says Harper, 52, host of NBC’s former TV show The Biggest Loser. “I didn’t think it could happen to me because I’m the workout guy. I’m the fitness guy.”

Then came the morning of Feb. 12, 2017, one that Harper still can’t remember. What he does recall is having dinner with friends the night before, then taking his dog Karl for a short walk before going to bed. He knows he had plans to meet one of those friends at a CrossFit gym in his New York City neighborhood the next morning — but he doesn’t remember anything about that day or the next. Where his memory picks up? Waking up in the hospital and being told that he’d had a near-fatal heart attack in the middle of his workout.

He’d had what’s often called a widow-maker heart attack, which occurs when the left anterior descending artery, one of the three main arteries that supply blood to the heart, is almost totally blocked. “His heart was so starved for blood and oxygen because of the blocked artery that he went into sudden cardiac arrest and basically died,” explains cardiologist, Warren J. Wexelman, M.D., a clinical instructor in the Department of Medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

Fortunately for Harper, when he collapsed, a doctor who was working out at the gym administered CPR while someone else dialed 911. To restart his heartbeat, Harper had to be shocked three times by an automated external defibrillator (AED). “He doesn’t remember it because he was placed in a medically induced coma to give his heart a chance to rest,” Wexelman says. “Any regular person wouldn’t have recovered. Bob’s superior physical condition saved his life more than anything else.”

Looking back, Harper recognizes some warning signs, such as feeling dizzy — and once, even fainting — during his workouts over the course of about six weeks prior to his cardiac arrest. At one point, he went to see a doctor who recommended further tests — but Harper put them off. “I chose not to listen to my body as much as I should have,” Harper admits. “I didn’t think I was at risk for a heart attack.”

In fact, he was at high risk for both heart attack and stroke, thanks to an inherited cholesterol abnormality — high lipoprotein(a), a particle in the blood that carries cholesterol, fat and proteins. What’s more, his mother had a heart attack and died at age 70, as did her father.

When The Biggest Loser comes back to TV in January 2020 on the USA Network, Bob Harper will be its host, as he was for the last season of the popular weight loss reality show in 2016.

This time, the show promises to be different—different trainers, different doctors and a different approach, including a focus on “aftercare,” meaning support when the show is over.

“It’s not about getting skinny, it’s about getting healthy,” Harper told People. “You see people getting off medication, reversing their type 2 diabetes, lowering their blood pressure.”

This vision for the show aligns with Harper’s updated view on health.

“When I heard about the reboot, I thought it was a perfect fit,” says Harper, 53, who was a trainer on the show for 16 seasons before becoming the host. “I feel like I understand The Biggest Loser contestants more than I ever have,” he told Men’s Health.

“When I suffered my heart attack more than two years ago, I was having to start back at square one,” Harper said. He was doing a CrossFit workout in February 2017, and woke up in the hospital two days later to discover he’d not only had a heart attack, but went into cardiac arrest. “I was dead on that floor for several minutes,” he said. “After that, I could not walk a city block without feeling winded.” (Check out his workout routine today.)

Harper says the new season will have a bigger focus on wellness. But what is wellness? “That term gets thrown around a lot,” Harper said, “but I hope people attach a meaning to that word that has to do with not only taking care of yourself physically, but also with components like how you manage your stress and what you say to yourself.”

He explained to Variety that licensed psychiatrists met with contestants behind-the-scenes. On camera, Harper leads support groups where people can discuss their struggles.

“We give them an outlet to get what’s going on in their head out into the real world, seek solace, feel a little bit better about themselves because it is a struggle,” he told Variety.

Bob Harper hosted The Biggest Loser in 2016, after being a long-time trainer on the show. NBCGetty Images

Harper doesn’t claim it’s easy. “Change is hard in any way or capacity. I was so used to doing everything a certain way before my heart attack, and when I had to rethink everything, all the rules changed and my old routines had to be thrown out,” he said. “I have always been a control freak—I like to say control enthusiast—and when I suffered my heart attack, I realized I needed to relinquish control and be vulnerable and open and honest with myself. It’s been something that has been a process.” One that comes with any kind of change, he said.

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After his heart attack, Harper became a slightly different type of informal trainer. For the past year, he’s been working with AstraZeneca-sponsored Survivors Have Heart, meeting with small groups of heart attack survivors about their stories and how they are all moving on.

In recent years, The Biggest Loser came under attack for numerous reasons, including research in the journal Obesity about past contestants who not only gained weight back, but were also found to have slower metabolisms than when they started. “I think that weight loss is super controversial,” said Harper. “And it’s something that never has a finish line. A lot of people want there to be one but there isn’t one.” Which he sees as more of a constant challenge than a problem. It’s all about figuring out how to get over the hurdle of stress on any given day, whether it’s dealing with food, exercise, and weight, or a heart that wasn’t as healthy as you thought. “Two and a half years ago, I was in a CrossFit gym one minute and woke up two days later in a hospital. In my career, I’ve tried to do some sort of good for people. I’m going to do everything in my power to take advantage of this second chance.”

Marty Munson Marty Munson, currently the health director of Men’s Health, previously served as deputy editor at Dr Oz The Good Life and director of digital content at Shape. Melissa Matthews Health Writer Melissa Matthews is the Health Writer at Men’s Health, covering the latest in food, nutrition, and health.

Bob Harper created a lifestyle, and career, out of being the picture of health. The 51-year-old fitness professional and former host of Biggest Loser religiously trained twice a day, all while keeping a careful eye on his nutrition.

“I was doing everything right,” Harper says, sitting at a café near his Manhattan apartment. “I had created a routine that had me feeling great.”

That’s what made it all the more shocking when, on February 12, he went into cardiac arrest on the floor of a gym in New York. Luckily, the gym had an AED (automated external defibrillator) on hand and an off-duty doctor happened to be working out nearby. Later the cause was revealed: A hereditary condition resulting in high levels of Lipoprotein particle in the blood, which puts him at a higher risk for heart attacks despite his clean living.

Just a few months later, Harper is already on the road to recovery, even returning to the weight rack. Instead of letting the event stop him, it has become a motivating force and a new means by which to help others.

Do you remember the day of the heart attack?

Not really. I have sort of figured it out through what others have told me. I had been feeling dizzy. I went to do my typical morning workout, which was a hero-type CrossFit one. The people in the class say that I was acting a little strangely, and even laid down during one of the sessions, which is not like me at all. The next thing I knew I woke up in a hospital gurney two days later, and I found out later I had technically died from a heart attack.

Sounds like you still don’t believe it happened.

I can’t fucking believe it. I still feel like I’m on the outside looking in. But it has been completely eye opening. I know it sounds cliché but I have had that epiphany that life is so short. I have realized that I don’t need to stress out about what my next job is or whatever bullshit is out there. Life is meant to be enjoyed.

How are you doing now?

Now I have been kind of sent back to the drawing board. I am working with Doctor Dean Ornish, who really wants me to be leading a vegetarian lifestyle, where I really watch my fat. For this diet he has started to incorporate non-fat Greek yogurt and egg whites to his regime, which is great for me. He asked me to do it for 30 days at least, and I am going to start this month.

On the road to recovery. I’m required to wear these monitors to see what my heart is doing throughout the day. I feel like a robot from WESTWORLD thank you all for your kindness. You have no idea how much it helps. ❤❤

A post shared by Bob Harper (@bobharper) on Feb 28, 2017 at 6:51am PST

I am sure you miss the gym.

It was my stress relief. It was the place where I felt the best in my day. I have been processing that a lot recently. I had a mission to defy what age looked like to men, and I had always worked toward that. Now I am dealing with the fact that I am not going to be Superman. I am not going to be that guy. What does the new me look like? My doctors are trying to help me find other outlets. Telling me that life doesn’t have to be just about killing it in the gym. But I still love fitness.

How did you deal with those first few weeks?

I would walk around my block, without a purpose. It became really depressing, not being able to do anything. I didn’t have the strength or the energy for it. I tried to read. I tried to take it easy. But that is still hard for me. Imagine having everything that you thought about yourself being stripped from you.

Have you started your rehab yet?

I was really lucky because a lot of people who suffer heart attacks do not go to rehab, whether it is because of time constraints or insurance purposes. Now I can’t even imagine not going to it. The people that do want rehab usually have to wait for a while. I was really lucky, because I was able to get into rehab just a month after. I remember going in there and it was the first time I was in anything that resembled a gym.

What was the first exercise you did there?

I did the ergometer and walked on the treadmill. Probably between three to five miles per hour, and it was still fucking hard. I had a bit of a freak out after, because it was the first time that I had been working out again. I thought I was going to go home and have another heart attack. I was really lucky that I had people around me 24/7 after the event, but this was going to be the first time that I was on my own. I had this dark fantasy that it was going to happen again.

Now that it has been a few months, where are you at fitness-wise?

Now I am able to go on pretty serious walks, for about an hour or so. I am able to do yoga, so I have been taking classes at Laughing Lotus to build my strength. I use the iPhone watch to monitor my heart rate, and it’s super accurate. They just started letting me do a weight training section in my rehab. Of course the trainer in me wants to reprogram it. But they are keeping me on the system. It’s eight movements and you do 15 reps of each of them. Chest press. Overhead press. Just sticking to the fundamentals. I remember that first time looking down at all of the weights, and to do the 10-pound weights. I mean, I used to clean and jerk 225. But when I picked them up, those 10-pound weights were serious. Everyone there has been great, and I am really feeling better.

Sounds like the rehab really helped you.

I get really sad for the people who are kept from that kind of treatment because of financial or time constraints. There is so much that you have to take. I have gotten so many stories since it happened. Before this even happened I thought that I had been helping people, but now it’s incredible who has been reaching out to me. It’s a whole other group.

Have you learned anything else through your experience that you’re hoping to spread to the world?

My mission now is to make sure that there are AEDs in every gym or fitness building. I don’t want to workout anywhere that doesn’t have one around. If they hadn’t had one there at Brick, I could have died for real. They are so incredibly simple to use, anyone can, and it can be the difference between life and death.

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