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Long Island Woman Raising Awareness About Heart Disease Dangers After Suffering 3 Heart Attacks In 90 Minutes

BETHPAGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- When a Long Island woman went into cardiac arrest, a split-second decision by her husband likely saved her life.

Now, she's telling CBS2's Jennifer McLogan how she's spreading the word about heart disease dangers.

"I'm just happy to be alive because you think it's never going to happen to you," said 65-year-old Valerie Meritz, of Massapequa.

Meritz realizes moments with her grandson were nearly forever snatched away.

"I wasn't feeling well and I knew there was something terribly wrong, and I just said call the ambulance," she said.

It was one month ago, and Meritz was about to suffer three full blown heart attacks in 90 minutes.

"Even though 'am CPR-trained, I saw she was pale and ashen, but then when I touched her foot, it was clammy," Meritz's husband, Martin Saccente said.

Saccente's actions to urgently call EMTs for help saved his wife's life. They were married 40 years ago.

"This is a team effort. It starts with the 911 call," Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.

While en route to the emergency room, Meritz's heart stopped twice.

"She went into cardiac arrest again in the back of the ambulance. I shocked her again," Nassau police medic Thomas DeHaan said.

As they raced into St. Joseph Hospital, she came to.

"While we were talking, she started to lose consciousness, and then I saw the rhythm go like this and I said something is wrong," said Dr. Joseph Chirayil, emergency room associate director.

Meritz flatlined again and for a third time, the medical team brought her back.

"We were able to perform a balloon angioplasty on that blockage and open up the artery and re-establish blood flow into the heart," St. Francis Hospital cardiologist Dr. Sidharth Yaday said.

"It's very emotional, very emotional," Meritz said.

Meritz later learned her warning signs were classic -- sharp chest, upper abdomen and back pain, along with nausea, fatigue and dizziness.

"The only restriction I have is I can't pick up more than 20 pounds, so I can't pick my grandson up," she said.

"I'm lucky," Saccente said.

Saccente and Meritz say her repaired heart is bringing new significance to Valentine's Day.

Meritz, her husband and children -- one is an NYPD sergeant, the other a medical doctor -- are on a mission during February, which is Heart Health Month, to raise awareness.

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