Peabo Bryson after heart attack: ‘You can choose fear or faith’

Tanya Boniface Bryson was still awake at 2 a.m. on April 27  when her husband, Grammy-winning balladeer Peabo Bryson, crawled into bed at their Marietta home.

In what could have been seconds — or minutes — the 68-year-old Bryson lost consciousness.

“I only noticed because I heard him breathing,” said Tanya Boniface Bryson. “It didn’t sound right. I leaned over and realized he was non-responsive.”

She immediately dialed 911 and told the emergency operator that her husband wasn’t breathing.

Bryson was having a heart attack.

The 911 operator told her she had to immediately start CPR until help arrived.

Boniface Bryson couldn’t lift him to slide him to the floor, which would have given her a firmer surface, so she had to perform the emergency procedure on the bed.

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Timing was critical.

Within minutes, first responders arrived, then an ambulance, which rushed him to WellStar Kennestone Hospital. He is now recovering at home.

The “Feel the Fire” and “A Whole New World (Aladdin’s Theme) singer, doesn’t remember much about that morning. He doesn’t remember going to work (He jokes, “I understand  I was really good” ) or coming home.

On Tuesday, Bryson and his wife of nine years, went to Cobb County Fire Station 3 to thank the the men and women who saved his life.

“When you look at what everyone did, it was more than extraordinary,” said Bryson in a telephone interview.

He heaped praise on the first responders, whom he said are a special breed.

“They can be the only thing standing between your children being orphaned and your wife widowed,” he said. “All they do is try to save people. It’s a thankless job and they aren’t paid enough for what they do. Taking responsibility for another life is probably the greatest single service you can do for someone else.”

Peabo Bryson performs "A Change is Gonna Come” in this AJC file photo.

Credit: Raymond Hagans, Special to AJC

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Credit: Raymond Hagans, Special to AJC

Bryson said he plans to do what he can to get better pay and recognition  for them. And he plans to tell his story over and over to the “powers that be.”

He also thanked family, friends and fans for their continued prayers.

He also praises the quick action of his wife, a singer and former member of the British group The 411.

“To find that person who is meant for you is an extraordinary thing,” he said. “To have that person who is meant for you save your life is on a totally different level. I couldn’t have anticipated that. I chose well. I chose the right person.”

He said he was recently joking with fellow crooner Jeffrey Osborne about the value of a really good woman, especially one who knows CPR.

Bryson said he had been in pretty good health, ate a healthy diet and exercised regularly, which likely played a role in his survival.

In the past, he suffered from a couple of mini-strokes, but there was no lasting damage, “but they did happen.”

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He’s not rushing to get back to work, but plans to take his time to heal and “let things come to me. I don’t need to rush. “

“The life I have now is the one I have to take care of,” he said. “That’s what needs my attention.”

Doctors told him that fewer than 13 percent of people go through what he experienced and survive. “It’s not a happy percentage.”

Today, though, he said he feels great and is pretty calm.

“The life you had before and the life you have now are two different things,” he said.

Bryson, though, refuses to live in fear or think about whether it could happen again.

“That’s not spiritual,” he said. “Faith doesn’t work that way. God’s grace doesn’t work that way. You can choose fear or faith.”

The R&B singer suffered a heart attack earlier this month.

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