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RYBAK'S HEROES: Friends who found former mayor speak

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

After a second procedure following a heart attack, former Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak is listed in good condition in the hospital, and Fox 9 News spoke with two of his friends who encouraged him to go.

For the first time, Dr. Ed Ryan and Scott Gislason are speaking about how they may have saved the life of their cross-country skiing buddy by being in the right place at the right time.

"He will be out of there as soon as he's allowed to be out of there, if not sooner," quipped Ryan.

Both Ryan and Gislason are confident that it's only a matter of time before their long-time friend is back out on the cross-country ski trails with them -- time they're grateful to have.

"Boy, he is a ski enthusiast," Gislason said. "In fact, he coined the term."

Yet, it was on those very trails in Theodore Wirth Park that Rybak could have died if it weren't for the quick actions of Ryan and Gislason.

"It was apparent," Gislason recalled. "He didn't look very good."

When symptoms of a heart attack emerge, the time to react is measured in minutes. Fortunately, both recognized that Rybak urgently needed help -- and fast.

"You could just see he was not comfortable at all," Ryan remembered. "After a few minutes, he complained of chest pain. His biggest issue was the fear of not getting oxygen."

The 58-year-old had just finished a nearly 8-mile trek, but when he returned to his car, he wasn't feeling well. Since he was short of breath, he reclined in the driver's seat -- but when Ryan and Gislason saw the former mayor's Subaru, they knew something wasn't right.

"We suggested calling 911, and at first, he asked us not to -- but very quickly, it was clear," Gislason said. "Call 911."

Doctors and Rybak's children said that decision to call paramedics may have been the difference between life and death because Rybak was suffering a major heart attack. He was rushed to Abbott Northwestern hospital and underwent an emergency angioplasty.

"The profile for a guy who dies of a heart attack is a guy in his 50s," Ryan remarked. "Frequently, it's a healthy guy because they never saw it coming."

By all accounts, Rybak is as fit and healthy as they come. He had just stepped away from his job at City Hall last week after 12 years. Charlie Rybak said he can't remember the last time his father touched junk food, and the health crisis served as a big wake-up call for all those who know him.

"I was struck," Gislason admitted. "Golly, he's such a fit, optimistic guy. You don't expect it."

The Rybaks do have a history of heart disease, and Charlie Rybak said he hopes others use their experience as a reminder to discuss family history and learn the signs and symptoms. That's a sentiment that Gislason agrees with.

"This could happen to any of us," he said.

Since he was hospitalized, Rybak has been in good spirits -- sending out updates on his condition via social media. At about 7 p.m. on Monday, he sent a tweet that read, "Love this Abbott Northwestern Groupon. This second angioplasty is better than the first."

Rybak's family is hoping he will be released from the hospital sometime in the next few days.

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