Actor Dean Winters has opened up about a terrifying near-death experience he went through a decade ago, when he was legally dead for almost five minutes.
Winters, now 54, is instantly recognizable to TV fans. In addition to starring in shows like 30 Rock, Oz and Law and Order: SVU, he played the embodiment of Mayhem in Allstate's insurance commercials. For Winters, the mayhem became real in June of 2009 when his heart stopped during a desperate ambulance ride.
"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," Winters told Us Weekly over the weekend. "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 said that he did not see a white light as many other near-death experience survivors report. However, he did tell reporters that he "had no idea what happened" in those minutes between his death and his miraculous recovery. In fact, he did not find out for quite a while.
"They don't tell you what happened until a couple of months later," he revealed. "They don't want to send you back into a mental trauma. It woke me up to a lot of things that were fuzzy."
Winters has told this story to the press before, first mentioning it in an interview with Page Six a year after it happened. There, he explained that he was at his doctor's office near Central Park, seeking treatment for a bacterial infection. He collapsed there, and was rushed to the hospital, where he spent three weeks in the intensive care unit.
After his incredible revival, Winters said that the road to recovery was long. He was confined to his apartment in Tribeca for a month, where he suffered from gangrene. The condition can happen when body tissue dies, and obviously Winters' body was confused by the traumatic experience.
All in all, Winters had two toes and half of a thumb amputated to stop the spread. He had 10 operations in total, and he kept working through all of them. He even revealed that he filmed the final season of 30 Rock during this time.
"For the [30 Rock] season finale, I had casts on both arms, and another on my foot, which was kept off camera," he said back in 2010. "And [Tina Fey] literally had me propped up on a stool."
Winters said that the harrowing experiences gave him a fresh appreciation for life, which made the last few years even more amazing for him. Winters has picked up recurring roles on acclaimed shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Battle Creek and Divorce. He also had a role in John Wick, and continued working on Law and Order: SVU until this year.
Winters has three projects in post-production at this time.