Dean Winters’ life flashed before his eyes in June 2009 when his heart stopped beating on the way to a New York City hospital.
“I had a rough ride in an ambulance. I went septic due to an illness that I had as a kid and it caught up with me,” the Oz alum, 54, told Us Weekly exclusively at the recent premiere of The White Crow. “I was dead in the back of an ambulance, and the great doctors at Lenox Hill Hospital brought me back to life after around four-and-a-half minutes.”
Winters did not see a white light like in the movies, but he “had no idea what happened.”
“They don’t tell you what happened until a couple of months later,” he explained to Us. “They don’t want to send you back into a mental trauma. It woke me up to a lot of things that were fuzzy.”
The 30 Rock alum had contracted a bacterial infection and collapsed when he stopped by his doctor’s office near Central Park. He went into cardiac arrest while being rushed to the hospital, and “died on Fifth Avenue,” as he told Page Six a year later. He ended up spending three weeks in the intensive care unit.
After being sent home, Winters spent a month recuperating at his apartment in the Tribeca area. Suddenly, he developed gangrene, a condition that occurs when body tissue dies. Over the next year, he had to have two toes and half of a thumb amputated. He underwent a total of 10 operations, including skin grafts.
“For the [30 Rock] season finale, I had casts on both arms, and another on my foot, which was kept off camera,” he told Page Six in 2010. “And [Tina Fey] literally had me propped up on a stool.”
Since then, the actor has found a new appreciation for life — and his career has not slowed down. He continued to appear as Brian Cassidy on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, in addition to having recurring roles in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Battle Creek, Divorce and movies including John Wick and After Everything.
With reporting by Nicki Gostin