HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Harry “Didi” Robello was surfing a big South swell in Waikiki on August 1 just minutes before his heart suddenly stopped beating.
“I went out to ‘Canoes’ first and was paddling in. I sat up on my board and I was telling myself, ‘This isn’t good,’” he said.
The longtime Waikiki beach boy remembers feeling tired and waving to lifeguard Raynold Quinores, who pulled his Jet Ski alongside to offer assistance.
Robello was holding onto the board on the back of the water craft when his body suddenly went limp.
"We got towards the inside and I went to check on him and he was unconscious," Quinores said.
Lifeguard Lamakani Holt rushed over to help, holding onto Robello as he was rushed to shore.
“I’m always thinking what could I have done better,” Holt said. “I wished I had started paddling over there five seconds sooner but everything worked out.”
Emergency responders used CPR then a defibrillator to shock Robello’s heart back into rhythm.
“I needed to get zapped,” he said. “When they brought me in and zapped me I came right back.”
Doctors told Robello, 57, that he experienced Sudden Death Syndrome. The cardiac arrest was unrelated to a heart attack he suffered two years ago.
“I don’t have heart damage but whatever defibrillation is, it stopped!” he said.
Robello has thanked the men who saved his life many times. They are also his friends. His Aloha Beach Services stand is right next to their lifeguard tower.
On Tuesday, he formally said mahalo to all the rescue workers who had a hand in saving his life.
"I'm just glad I was able to be there for him because he has a wife. He has two young boys," Quinores said.
Surgeons installed a pacemaker and Robello gets regular checkups. He said he feels great.
“I try to look at something bad and make it positive. This is as positive as something bad is gonna get,” he said.
Robello runs the surf lesson and canoe riding business his parents started in 1959. His near death experience has given him a new appreciation for life.