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RYBAK RECOVERING: Family hopes to raise heart attack awareness

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

The former mayor of Minneapolis is recovering with a smile after he got quite a scare while cross country skiing on Saturday. RT Rybak suffered a heart attack, but he's in good spirits if his social media is any indication.

Earlier on Sunday, Rybak sent a photo of himself giving a big thumbs up while still hooked up to an IV line out to his Twitter followers with the message, "It's a great day to be alive. Really."

The popular Minnesota politician's children say they are breathing big sighs of relief now that their father has survived a very close call.

"We're feeling incredibly blessed that he got the help he did when he got it," Grace Rybak, RT's daughter, said.

That help was much-needed. Dr. Betty Grey, at Abbott Northwestern, told Fox 9 News the significant heart attack RT Rybak suffered may have killed him if it weren't for some quick thinking.

"Mayor Rybak was in critical condition when he came in, having an acute heart attack," she said.

The three-term mayor had just finished a nearly 8-mile cross-country ski run at Theodore Wirth Park on Saturday when he noticed he wasn't feeling right. The 58-year-old was feeling short of breath and headed for his car when he ran into a couple of friends who called 911 because they believed he was in serious trouble. According to his son, that call likely saved his life.

"The bottom line of the story is that it was incredibly fortunate that his friends came upon him when they did," Grace Rybak said.

Doctors who performed the angioplasty to insert to stents in former mayor Rybak's arteries agree.

"It was very critical -- the timing," Grey stated. "The outcome of this could've been the opposite."

By Sunday afternoon, Rybak was smiling and speaking out online just days after stepping away from the top job at Minneapolis City Hall.

"Honestly, I have to keep reminding myself he had a heart attack because he looks so normal now," Grace Rybak, the former mayor's daughter, admitted. "The term 'heart attack' feels so separate from who he is. Doesn't feel quite real."

Yet it was very real for the health and fitness junkie, whom his son describes as "super active."

"We had a nurse yesterday comment that he was probably the healthiest person on the floor," Grace Rybak relayed.

Now, Rybak and his family are hoping others will learn from his near-death experience by learning the symptoms and making sure that everyone in the family is aware of their medical health history. Heart disease has apparently wreaked havoc on the Rybak family.

"For me, it's a really good wake-up call," Charlie Rybak said.

On Sunday Night, the former mayor took to social media once more to send out a big thank you to his two heroes -- Dr. Ed Ryan and Scott Gislason. Both are avid cross-country skiers themselves, and they were certainly in the right place at the right time on Saturday.

Doctors hope that Rybak will be well enough to go home in a couple of days.

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