John Carrington's heart raced at more than 300 beats per minute -- then stopped while he was on a conference call in 2006 in his General Electric office in Pittsfield, Mass.
The next thing the then-40-year-old businessman knew, he was in a hospital in New York City under the care of specialists.
"Fortunately, at the GE offices we had an AED (automatic external defibrillator) in the building, and they rushed that to me," Carrington, who now lives in Menlo Park, said.
Although it took 13 minutes for paramedics to arrive, Carrington's chief technology officer, trained in resuscitation, had come to his aid immediately.
"They eventually hit me three times -- the heart would start and stop, start and stop," he said.
"I know these machines save lives."
Carrington credits the AED and GE's quick response in getting him to the right hospital for saving his life.
"I compliment (GE CEO) Jeff Immelt because they did put more of these devices in after my occurrence, and I know they've been used and saved lives." (AEDs are among the products offered by GE Healthcare.)
After he recovered, Carrington sent an email to 13,000 GE managers urging them to secure AEDs for their offices and plant sites. He's received notes back indicating the defibrillators were installed -- and successfully used.
"We all hear the story of a high school cheerleader or football player who drops dead at school. A state like California that's pretty progressive should be embracing this with some sort of public support."
Carrington, now CEO of the Santa Clara-based thin-film solar company MiaSole, said he has the portable defibrillators at his site, "and there's no doubt we'll continue, at any plant site we'd open, to put them in.
"People get gun-shy on the liability piece, but when I've seen how these machines operate it's very, very clear and straightforward how to use them.
"I assure you, had I died after four or five shocks, my wife would have said, 'Well, they did what they could.'"