EAGAN, Minn. (KMSP) - An Eden Prairie man is getting a second chance at life thanks to a group of women he calls his "sheroes."
Jen Anderson, a wife and mother, died of breast cancer four years this month, but her beauty, fighting spirit, and her passion for life still serve as an inspiration to her family to pedal for a cure. Once Jen was diagnosed, friends and family organized a breast cancer ride.
Jen's husband, JR, hasn't missed the annual event that is now held in mid-August along the streets of Eagan, which gives him a chance to reconnect with old friends and support a cause near and dear to his heart.
"It was my mission to ride with as many different people as possible,” said JR Anderson. “I'm catching up. And staying and visiting, just laughing. And again, it was a 24-mile ride. It was nothing."
But as dozens of cyclists headed for home JR's nothing turned into something. He was just a couple miles from the finish, with his three-year old grandson just up the road waiting for him on his little bicycle.
"Just wasn't feeling right – started to get off my bike," JR said.
That’s when JR collapsed on Silver Bell Road. Cyclist Beth Bergman happened to be right there as the 55-year old crumpled to the ground.
"He wasn't breathing,” said Beth. “He had no pulse. It was blue instantaneously. His eyes were just glazed over. Gone.”
Fortunately for JR, Beth, a breast cancer survivor, is also a nurse – more specifically, a cardiac nurse and JR was in full cardiac arrest.
“I was like, ‘oh my God’ and I just started doing CPR,” she said.
Beth was joined by her partner Dawn and Allie Hanson, a medical assistant who just happened to be driving by. Beth handled the chest compressions and Allie did the breathing for JR.
“I couldn't breathe hard enough,” said Allie. “That's all I kept thinking about is this man has to live. He has to live. There is no other choice."
Ride organizer and friend Kari Mitchell was on scene before the ambulance got there.
"I thought he was dead,” said Mitchell. “I thought for sure this is it. How could this be happening on this ride? How could something we did for Jen be happening to him? So I just felt guilty and scared thinking about facing his kids if these people don't save his life."
By their estimates, it took about 20 minutes of full, intense CPR to bring JR back from the dead with Jen's words of fighting, surviving and of living life echoing throughout.
"I think it's a miracle. The whole situation is a miracle. He is one lucky man,” said Allie.
After spending several days at Regions Hospital, JR was sent home with a defibrillator implanted in his chest, but tests revealed no obvious heart issues.
The chance of him surviving a full cardiac arrest out in the field without any medical equipment nearby for as long as he did and without any brain damage from lack of oxygen is nearly unheard of.
"Truthfully it is unbelievable to think,” said Kari. “There is no way he is here today, like it has to be Jen - the spirit of the ride. It has to be the nurses. None of it makes sense. All of us there - none of it makes sense. We wake up at night just trying to piece this together why this happened. Why is he here? How?"
"I know the stats and I'm still all week long in a fog,” said Beth. “It's surreal. Just every day, I'm blown away in pure amazement."
One week later at his Eden Prairie home, JR gave a proper thank you to his life-savers.
His wife wasn’t there to celebrate his second chance at life, but she may have delivered several angels and a miracle.