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Florida Heart-Attack Victim Goes Home after Atlanta CBP, Medical Professionals Render Life-Saving Efforts

Release Date: 
December 31, 2015

ATLANTA – Life is a precious gift, and sharing life with family during the holidays is ever more precious. A Titusville, Fla., man is cherishing the moment today after leaving an Atlanta hospital with his daughter, and after he thanked U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and medical professionals for giving him that chance.

John Heilig, 66, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) on December 11 from Japan, when he collapsed in CBP’s federal inspection station. CBP Officer John Seebode immediately began cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as co-workers alerted 911 and retrieved an automatic external defibrillator (AED). Seebode continued CPR while other officers rendered aid and administered numerous AED shocks to the unconscious Heilig.

Atlanta Fire and Rescue paramedics arrived, assumed life-saving efforts, and rushed Heilig to Emory University Hospital.

“When someone’s heart stops, immediate initiation of proper CPR is critical to a positive outcome,” said Dr. Chandan Devireddy of Emory University Hospital. “John going home today would not have taken place without the quality of care given by Officer Seebode and co-workers at the airport.”

In a private ceremony Wednesday at Emory University Hospital, Heilig and his daughter, Debbie Huff, thanked CBP Officer Seebode, hospital staff and Fire and Rescue paramedics. Heilig will start his journey to his daughter’s Ohio home on Thursday morning.

John Heilig (left) thanks CBP Officer John Seebode in a private ceremony at Emory University Hospital December 30, 2015. Heilig suffered a heart attack at ATL airport December 11 and Seebode conducted CPR until paramedics arrived. Heilig went home New Year's Eve.

John Heilig (left) thanks CBP Officer John Seebode in a private ceremony at Emory University Hospital December 30, 2015. Heilig suffered a heart attack at ATL airport December 11 and Seebode conducted CPR until paramedics arrived. Heilig went home New Year's Eve.

“When I first arrived at the hospital and saw my father in such terrible condition, I just wasn’t sure if this day would come,” said Huff. “The care and support from CBP made a difference in my father’s recovery. We can never thank you enough.”

CBP Officer Seebode, who previously served as a Deputy Sheriff in Cumberland County, Ga., visited Heilig while he remained in the hospital. The significance of Seebode’s action isn’t lost on his superiors.

“Due to the fast response by CBP Officer Seebode and others, Mr. Heilig will be looking forward to a Happy New Year and celebrating his next birthday,” said Stephen Kremer, CBP Port Director for the Port of Atlanta. “On any given day, Customs and Border Protection officers here at the busiest airport in the world are ready and willing to help those in need.”

On average, CBP processes the international arrivals of more than 1 million passengers, crew, and pedestrians every day at air, land, and sea ports of entry across the nation. To learn more about CBP, visit CBP Snapshot and CBP.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017