It was the kind of March Madness one Tar Heel fan never could have anticipated.
Less than an hour after watching her beloved alma mater, UNC Chapel Hill, beat Duke in a basketball game two years ago, Lynne Gronning crumpled to her kitchen floor in Westport, the victim of a near-fatal heart attack.
For nearly 45 minutes, her heart failed to beat steadily, requiring her husband to perform CPR and paramedics and doctors to try repeatedly to shock it back into rhythm.
The prognosis was grim. Her family expected severe brain and organ damage due to lack of oxygen. Her husband, Bill, still chokes up while talking about the ordeal.
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"I told the paramedics I needed to clean up all the stuff they left scattered on the floor, where they were working on Lynne, because I knew I couldn't face coming home to that," he said. "I didn't think she was coming home."
Bill Gronning describes the six minutes he performed CPR on his wife, whose lips already had turned blue, as "50 percent concentration and 50 percent panic."
"My friends told me they were planning my funeral," Lynne Gronning said matter-of-factly.
Because of an angioplasty and a largely untested cold-water therapy performed at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, Gronning, now 59, resumed teaching English at East Lincoln High School within three weeks of her heart attack.
"They induced a coma and cooled my blood to 90 degrees for 24 hours to reduce the damage my brain and organs were incurring," she said. "My pastor told me medical personnel had never given her such a dark outlook, with no hope offered for my survival, much less recovery.
"After 24 hours of hydrotherapy, they raised my body temperature and asked me to wiggle my toes.
"They were amazed that I did."
Gronning suffered no detectable damage to her heart muscle. Mild memory loss is the only residual effect.
The statuesque blonde is now the star of a Presbyterian Women's Center campaign that includes billboards on major Charlotte thoroughfares and ads in newspapers and magazines. The billboards have appeared at the intersections of Interstate 77 and Morehead Street and at Freedom Drive and Interstate 85. On Feb. 19, Gronning donned a scarlet gown and was guest of honor at the Charlotte Heart Ball.
"I feel basically the same as I did before the heart attack," she said. "I never had high blood pressure or high cholesterol. I walked every day and I didn't even have a family history of heart disease. It was just one of those things."
For most people, the heart attack she suffered - caused by a clot in her left anterior descending artery - typically is fatal. But Lynne Gronning spent less than a week in the hospital.
The biggest change in her life is one of perspective. A sign on her classroom wall reflects her new outlook. It says: "Every Day is a Gift."
"I don't take life for granted, and I try not to get bent out of shape about things that don't really matter," she said.
In addition to the ad campaign that has made her a minor celebrity in her hometown, Gronning also has enjoyed other perks since her recovery.
In October 2009, she was guest speaker at an American Heart Association national conference in Orlando, Fla.
"The attention has been really fun," she said, "especially the photo shoot for the billboard and ad campaign. I got my hair and makeup done and spent the day in a photo studio in uptown Charlotte.
"But the best part is having my life. Life is a fabulous gift like no other. I am grateful for every second of it that I have."