Peter Skura was saved by good Samaritans after he suffered cardiac arrest while driving. At Huntington Hospital, he thanked the strangers who helped save his life. NewsdayTV's Ken Buffa reports.  Credit: John Roca

Janice Skura and her husband, Peter, were out enjoying a September day when the unimaginable happened.

While driving on Daly Road in Commack, Peter’s hand slipped from the driving wheel, his wife noticed. Then, when she looked at his face, she saw that his eyes had rolled in the back of his head and bubbles were foaming from his mouth.

She moved into action, placing her leg over the vehicle’s console and pressing the brakes. She then got out of the car to beg for someone to help her husband of 36 years. A bystander heard her cries and helped perform CPR on Peter, continuing a long string of people who worked to save his life.

At Huntington Hospital on Thursday, Peter, who was treated at the facility, was able to say thank you to the many people who helped bring him back from the clutches of death.

“I want to thank everybody. The paramedics, the EMTs, the hospital, the doctors, the nurses — everybody,” said Peter Skura, 63, of Huntington. “Without them, I would never even be here.”

The retired electrician later said, “I owe them my life.”

More than 300,000 people in the U.S. have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting each year, with a significant number of people dying before they get there, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, citing research from the American Heart Association.

Peter might have been another statistic if not for several quick-thinking people on Sept. 20. 

Kevin Klis, a custodian in the Harborfields school district, was on his way home from work and was delayed because he was having car issues, placing him in the right place at the right time to assist the Skuras. 

“If I had gotten in my car and it started, I probably would … have missed them,” Klis said.

He recalled the Skura's car stopping and hearing Janice scream. Klis, 53, of East Northport, leaped into action. He asked her to put the car in park. Then he and another bystander worked to get Peter out of the car.

Klis checked the husband’s pulse and chest. He didn’t hear anything. Klis, who learned CPR during high school, said he remembered to try to do the chest compressions to the beat of the disco song “Stayin' Alive.”

Looking back on the incident, “There wasn't much thought. [I] just saw someone that needed help and did what I had to do,” he said.

When paramedic John Mancino arrived at the scene, he said Peter was in the middle of the street.

Peter, he said, was dead.

After two shocks, though, Peter regained a pulse and eventually started breathing on his own, Mancino said. Peter was taken to Huntington Hospital.

“He kept going,” Mancino noted.

At the hospital, medical staff initially thought it was a heart attack, but it was cardiac arrest. A heart attack happens when “blood flow” to the organ is blocked, while a sudden cardiac arrest occurs “when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating,” the American Heart Association states on its website.

Peter was awake and stable but could not follow commands, medical staff said. He was given a breathing tube.

Peter said he stayed in the hospital for eight days — and is doing better now, though he still can’t drive. Of the experience, he said he is trying to make the best of a second chance in life.

“It's just … trying to wrap my head around [it] and saying that 'My God, I got this chance now. I really have to embrace it and really try to do something with the time,'” he said. 

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