Watch CBS News

Referee who survived heart attack and reunited with player who saved him is back on the court

Ref reunites with player who saved his life
Basketball referee reunites with player who saved his life after on-court heart attack 02:29

Not many people get to return to the scene of their death, but John Sculli was able to go right back to the gym where he died — and meet the man who saved his life. 

Sculli, a basketball referee, was officiating a semi-pro game between the Jamestown Jackals and Toledo Glass City in June 2022 when he was suddenly struck by a "widow maker" heart attack — so named because few people survive such an event. 

Doctors even told his fiancee, Donna, that almost no one comes back from widow makers. 

"He's that one percent," Donna said. 

"I was in the right place at the right time," said Sculli. "I mean, that's why I'm here." 

Within seconds of his collapse, a Toledo player named Myles Copeland rushed to his side and started doing CPR. Copeland, a forward on the team, was also a Toledo firefighter just a year out of the academy who knew exactly what to do when Sculli fell. 

"I've never witnessed someone just collapse, but I knew what had to be done," Copeland said. 

Knowing that he helped save Sculli's life, Copeland said, is "honestly one of the best feelings in the world." 

When Sculli returned to that fateful gym, Copeland was invited to stop by. It was the first time the pair met since the day of Sculli's collapse. 

Since that day, Sculli has undergone a quadruple bypass surgery and returned to refereeing. He's refereed almost 50 games this season and seems none the worse for wear — all thanks to Copeland, who made the ultimate Cinderella story come true.  

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us:

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.