Few people can say they have died and been resuscitated not just once, but twice. Norman Tolra can.

This week he got the opportunity to thank two off-duty Northland District Health Board staff members who saved his life in his most recent near-death experience.

Back in 2003, Tolra had his first cardiac arrest at his local gym when he lived in Christchurch. Gym staff performed mouth to mouth and managed to resuscitate him.

When he returned to the gym afterwards one of the instructors who helped bring him back to life told him she decided to fulfil her dream of becoming a nurse after realising how capable she was in an urgent situation.

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Tolra and his wife Kaye, who works as an occupational therapist at the Northland health board, decided after the incident that he would never leave the house without some form of identification in case this happened again.

Then in June this year, Tolra was just metres from his home after being out jogging when he collapsed from a second cardiac arrest.

Emergency department nurse Joby Paul was driving down Western Hills Drive when she noticed Tolra lying on the ground being attended to by someone. She stopped to help.

Midwife Priscilla Ford also pulled over with her home birth kit which included oxygen, and the pair worked together to perform expert cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Tolra until an ambulance arrived.

Neither Paul nor Ford were aware the other was a health professional, but Ford recalls thinking Paul must have listened to her instructor during first aid training because she was performing textbook CPR.

Together their skills saved Tolra's life.

Kaye Tolra was at work when she got a call from ED asking her if she was Norman's wife. They had found a set of keys on him which had his NHI number slotted into the key ring.

Tolra was airlifted to Auckland Hospital where he spent a week in intensive care, followed by two weeks back at Whangarei Hospital recovering from both the cardiac arrest and a head injury from his fall to the ground.

His wife said she didn't know what the protocol was when meeting someone who had saved your husband's life.

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''We can't do anything more than say thank you to Priscilla and Joby, and live our lives in a way that gives thanks.''

All four urge the public to consider learning CPR, which when performed early is the most critical factor in a patient surviving. St John and Red Cross offer regular first aid training for members of the public.

Kaye Tolra said the couple have taken several lessons away from the incident but, above all, to be thankful for every day.

She will be ''paying it forward'' by travelling to Vietnam at the end of the month to volunteer in a psychiatric hospital. This will be her second trip to the Qui Nhon hospital.

Her husband will go with her and when her hospital work is over they plan to take a well-deserved break to see more of the country.