Dean Winters

Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

Dean Winters is just glad to be alive.

The actor, best known for playing Ryan O'Reilly on HBO's critically acclaimed prison drama Oz, Tommy's younger brother, Johnny Gavin, on FX's Rescue Me and Liz Lemon's crazy ex-boyfriend on 30 Rock, is finally opening up about a near-death experience he had last year.

In an interview with the New York Post, the 45-year-old Winters recounted how he came down with a fever and then a severe bacterial infection at his New York residence in July 2009 that caused his heart to stop beating for two and a half minutes and almost left him on the outside looking in.

"I was afraid to go to St. Vincent's, so I went to my doctor's office on Central Park West, where I collapsed. I was turning black, and my whole head was swelling up," he told the Post.

Paramedics managed to revive him and he was rushed to Lenox Hill Hospital, where he was stablized in the ICU and remained for the next three weeks.

"I died on Fifth Avenue," he added.

Unfortunately, he developed gangrene and doctors were forced to amputate half of the actor's thumb and two toes. As a result, he spent the next three months in and out of the hospital enduring 10 operations and numerous skin grafts to reconstruct his right hand.

Following his traumatic ordeal, Dean was lured back to the set of 30 Rock by Tina Fey who had Duffy written into the season finale, though viewers never saw the casts he had on both arms and one on his foot, which he said was "kept off camera."

"She literally had me propped up on a stool," he said.

Before his brush with death, Dean starred in the pilot for ABC's Happy Town, but he was later replaced by Steven Weber.

But how's the thesp feeling now?

"I feel like I'm a member of a very exclusive club—with a very tight door policy. It's gonna take more than a finger and a couple of toes to keep me down," said Dean.


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