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His heart stopped last leap year, so today he celebrates his 1st 'rebirthday'

Phillip Nicholson, 73, is celebrating his first 'rebirthday' today after a surviving a cardiac arrest four years ago.  (Emma Weller/CBC - image credit)
Phillip Nicholson, 73, is celebrating his first 'rebirthday' today after a surviving a cardiac arrest four years ago. (Emma Weller/CBC - image credit)

Phillip Nicholson, 73, is turning one today.

The leap year never held any real significance for the Ottawa resident, but this Feb. 29 is different because it's Nicholson's first "rebirthday."

On Feb. 29, 2020, he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. Many survivors mark the anniversary as the day of their rebirth, and most get to celebrate each year.

But for Nicholson, the occasion comes just once every four years.

"So it's my very first new leap year birthday and it's meaningful in a couple senses. First of all, [it's] very much a strong signal that I was given a second chance," Nicholson said.

Now, he even calls himself a "leap year baby."

Nicholson suffered his sudden cardiac arrest at the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus on Feb. 29, 2020.
Nicholson suffered his sudden cardiac arrest at the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus on Feb. 29, 2020.

Nicholson suffered a sudden cardiac arrest at the Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital on Feb. 29, 2020. (Phillip Nicholson)

On that day in 2020, he woke up feeling a heavy pressure on his chest and decided to go to the Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital.

"Within about a minute of being admitted into the examination room in the emergency ward, I said to my wife, 'I'm going to sit down, I can't stand up.' I sat down and ... went into what they called full cardiac arrest."

Nicholson's heart stopped and he was clinically dead. Hospital staff performed CPR for four minutes and used a defibrillator to shock him back to life.

Nicholson credits his wife, Cathy Robinson, in helping save his life.
Nicholson credits his wife, Cathy Robinson, in helping save his life.

Nicholson credits his wife Cathy Robinson with helping save his life. (Phillip Nicholson)

'I'm in the lucky 10%'

According to a recent report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, nearly 60,000 Canadians suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests each year — one every nine minutes. Of those, only one in 10 survive.

"I'm in the lucky 10 per cent," Nicholson said. "[I'm] very happy to be alive."

Along with the doctors who rushed to his aid, he credits his wife with saving his life.

"She captured my heart in 1979 and she saved it in 2020," he said.

Nicholson will be donating plasma today for the 92nd time to celebrate his re-birthday.
Nicholson will be donating plasma today for the 92nd time to celebrate his re-birthday.

To celebrate his rebirthday, Nicholson plans to donate plasma for the 92nd time. (Phillip Nicholson)

To celebrate his first rebirthday, Niocholson plans to donate plasma — his 92nd donation to Canadian Blood Services.

"So my joke is maybe I'm going for a Guinness Book of World Records to give my 92nd donation on my first birthday," he said.

Beyond that, he hopes to get as much as he can out of what he calls his "bonus years."

"I'm thankful for the four that I've been given, and hopefully I'll have another leap year birthday around the corner in a few years time."