NEW YORK (AP) — Dan Carlson had no idea who Tina Charles was until a few weeks ago. Now he'll never forget the New York Liberty's star center.
One of the hundreds of defibrillators that Charles has donated to organizations around the world over the past four years wound up saving Carlson's life when he had a heart attack in July.
On Friday, the 59-year-old Carlson got to thank Charles in person .
"I hadn't heard of her until after I had the heart attack," Carlson said choking up at the Liberty training center Friday morning. "Without her and what she's done by donating AEDs, I wouldn't be here today. I owe her my life. I hope I can do something good with my life, pay it forward. Help somebody in the future. I'm fortunate she's done it, so perhaps I can do the same thing."
Carlson is the first known life saved by one of the 300 automated external defibrillators (AED) that Charles has donated to communities and schools since she started Hopey's Heart Foundation in honor of her late aunt who died in 2013 of multiple organ failure.
"I never knew my impact reached this far," Charles said . "It's one thing to donate over the years, but it's another to see the impact an AED can have. That I can have with making one small choice."
Charles had no idea she would ever meet Carlson. He works as a landscape supervisor at Marbridge Foundation, a community for individuals with intellectual disabilities in Austin, Texas.
He had the heart attack on July 13 and Jennifer Diaz, a member of the staff at the Foundation, quickly grabbed the AED and went into action, putting her training to use.
Carlson doesn't remember anything about that day after he was sitting on a bench near a bocce ball court.
"I don't remember anything of that day, or the following two days after that," he said. "I talked to people who witnessed it and am very thankful for my co-workers."
The Foundation, which received the AED from Hopey's Heart in 2014, sent a letter to Charles, thanking her and telling her Carlson's story.
"We are old-fashioned and thought sending a letter to tell them how much good they did was the right thing to do," said Marbridge Foundation vice president for development Michelle Levy. "Dan is so beloved at the community and because of Tina's foundation he's still around."
Charles' mom opened the letter and immediately called her daughter to tell her the news.
"I was overcome with emotion seeing him standing there," said Charles' mom Angella Murry. "This is a life we're talking about, and he's still here because of the AED. It's a good thing and wants to make us do more."
The Liberty flew Carlson, his wife and a few members of Marbridge Foundation to New York to surprise Charles. The emotional meeting took place after practice. Murry led the group onto the court and Charles was shocked.
"It's unreal," Charles said. "It goes over your head. ... I'm so thankful to see it come full circle. There are so many other organizations doing great work like I am. To lose my aunt's life was sad, but you're gaining so many now, it means the world to me."
Carlson and his wife, Barbara, took in the Liberty game on Friday night and he was recognized by the team to the crowd.
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