OAK PARK, Ill. — Seven weeks ago, John Hoerster's heart stopped for 12 minutes.
The football coach at Oak Park and River Forest High School beat the odds and returned to the field Friday night to do what he loves.
"I feel great," Hoerster said. "Every day is getting better."
The 42-year-old was on a family vacation in the outer banks of North Carolina last month when he suffered a massive heart attack.
"I was on my way back from a swim in the ocean and I went down,"Hoerster said. "Fortunately my wife’s cousin was there and knows CPR. He was able to jump into action and save my life."
Cousin Matt Giffhorn is a physical therapist.
"I went over just to see what was going on," Giffhorn said. "I noticed he had no pulse and wasn’t breathing, so I started CPR until paramedics could come."
Hoerster was dead for 12 minutes. But he's made a remarkable recovery.
"John's a fighter," wife Margaret Hoerster said. "He’s fought through it all, and we’re here tonight for the first game."
Under doctor’s orders, Hoerster is coaching from the press box while he continues to heal. He said what happened made him stronger and more focused on what really matters — lessons he hopes his players will take with them beyond the field.
"Tonight’s about them," John Hoerster said, "but I think if anything, something like this helps them appreciate the moment ... and really enjoy being around each other and play a great game."
John Hoerster lost his own father to a heart attack. Hoerster's wife said the family's health scare drives home the importance of learning CPR.