CONCORD -- Mike Stevenson was in the final leg of his workout in the Cowell Community Pool when his "memory just turned off."
There was no white light for him, no spiritual journey. No pulse, either.
Though the 72-year-old Stevenson has a pre-existing heart condition, his body has endured decades of marathons and swimming. But that body gave out as he pushed off the wall in Lane 1 of the swimming pool on Dec. 11, leaving him face down in four feet of water.
"To be quite honest with you, I don't have any memory of what happened," Stevenson said Thursday from his Alamo home.
As he slipped out of consciousness, a well-prepared collective of lifeguards and fellow swimmers -- one of them an off-duty paramedic -- were performing CPR and using a defibrillator on Stevenson almost immediately. Family members said doctors credited that response with saving his life.
On Tuesday, Stevenson will be reunited with his rescuers, who will be honored at a Concord City Council meeting.
On that chilly December morning, Stevenson said he finished his 22 freestyle laps, his five backstroke laps and was completing another nine freestyle laps when he went into cardiac arrest. Though he doesn't remember what happened next, his rescuers do.
A couple swimming next to him noticed he wasn't moving; they turned him over as a lifeguard sounded a siren and jumped into the pool without taking off his shoes or layers of clothing. With paramedics
"It went so fast there wasn't much time to think about it," said the lifeguard, 31-year-old Jake Hiekkila.
When someone loses a pulse, there is a 90 percent survival rate if they can be hooked up to a defibrillator within the first minute of their collapse.
Doctors at the John Muir Medical Center's Concord campus told family that fast action saved Stevenson's life and likely spared him from any neurological damage.
"They call this an 'aborted sudden death,' " said Anne Stevenson, Mike's wife of 44 years. She had been showering in the women's area near the pool but quickly ran to her husband's side.
"Because of the quick action of all the people involved, the death was aborted," she said. "It's pretty amazing."
In his 20 years at the city swimming pool, Program Coordinator Matt Galindo said this was the first cardiac arrest on his watch. He went to the hospital later that day to visit Stevenson.
"I've done this for a really long time, I've never had an emotional attachment before," Galindo said. "I also don't really do the hero thing really well. It's sort of a part of our job. It's what you do."
Like it or not, Galindo, Hiekkila and Matt Epperson, the off-duty Moraga-Orinda Fire Department firefighter, will be honored as heroes at the council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Stevenson said the couple who helped him are Carol and Roger Havens of Concord.
Stevenson, a retired administrative law judge, was released from the hospital three days after his rescue and is going through rehabilitation. He has not yet gone back into the water.
"The swimming pool is an emotional barrier to overcome," he said. "I think I'll be able to do it. I hope I will be."
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.