NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island man who nearly died during the New York City Triathlon got the chance on Sunday to meet with the first responders who saved his life.

“How do you thank someone for giving you life,” said Chris Lapak.

Lapak has a lot to be thankful for, CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported. While swimming in the Hudson River during the New York City Triathlon in August, Lapak’s heart stopped beating.

“No one has ever had cardiac arrest in the Hudson River and lived to talk about it,” he said.

Lapak, however, is the exception.

On Sunday, Lapak shared his gratitude with the emergency responders who saved his life.

“When they took me out of the water, I was dead for 11 minutes,” he said.

Cary Epstein, lifeguard director for the triathlon, rushed over to help Lapak after seeing a frantic signal from his team.

“The last time I saw him he was as purple as Barney the dinosaur and the fact that he’s alive and well is just an incredible feat. He’s really a miracle,” Epstein said. “This was a race against time and time is muscle in a cardiac arrest scenario.”

Epstein used a Jetski to race Lapak 75 yards to paramedics on a nearby boat, and said he’d never done a rescue like that before.

“We had to pin his lifeless body on the rescue sled while maintaining an open airway and basically hold on as hard as we could. We couldn’t do CPR at the time because we’re going so quick the sled bounces so much,” Epstein said.

But Lapak survived thanks to that urgency. And after a double bypass surgery, he’s back in the pool and running.

“My heart tells me I want to and I need to. I don’t do well with unfinished business,” Lapak said.

He’s now training for another New York City Triathlon.

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