OTTAWA -- An Arizona man’s family is thanking the Ottawa Heart Institute and the Ottawa Hospital for saving his life.

Cody Howard, a retired marine, suffered what is usually a deadly injury when he was in a snowmobiling accident near Mont Tremblant.

“His aorta was severed in half,” said Howard’s wife, Chante Fox.

“This doesn’t happen, you don’t survive it.”

The 37-year-old veteran had been visiting a family-owned property in Quebec, to celebrate his future brother-in-law. A group of them were snowmobiling when a record-setting snowstorm rolled into the area.

“My brother was driving, we were all on the same snowmobile, and that’s the last thing I remember,” said Howard, speaking to CTV News from his hospital bed.

“Just low visibility and we hit a tree.”

Fox was still in Phoenix when she got a call from her sister-in-law that the boys had been in an accident.

“They found them, all three, unconscious in the snow,” said Fox.

“It was the worst day of my life.”

Fox and the couple’s 10-month old son River, got on the next flight to Ottawa, not knowing if Howard would survive.

“The fact he had a blood clot that was holding it somewhat together it was keeping him alive,” said Fox

“They [the doctors] performed miracles that night.”

Paramedics initially brought Howard to Hull Hospital. After a CT scan, doctors there found he had a an aortic dissection, and had him rushed to the Ottawa Hospital Trauma Centre.

The Ottawa Heart Institute, one of the most world-renowned and distinguished heart health centres in Canada, quickly jumped into action.

“People die on scene with this type of injury,” said Dr. Jacinthe Lampron, the director of the Ottawa Hospital Trauma Centre.

“Minutes count for their survival.”

Lampron says Howard arrived in critical condition and a team of doctors was assembled immediately.

The Ottawa Heart Institute's cardiac and vascular surgeons spent 9 hours operating on Howard, in a rare and complex, but ultimately, successful surgery.

Howard was put in a medically induced coma, with a small chance to survive.

“It’s a very severe and fatal injury, so we have to recognize it activate the trauma and do whatever possible to stop that bleeding,” said Dr. Lampron.

“He was very lucky to be brought on time and to the right place."

The Howard family says they are incredibly grateful to the entire staff at the Ottawa Hospital the Ottawa Heart Institute, and to anyone who has offered support.

Because Howard suffered damage to his spinal cord as well in the accident, he is currently paralyzed from the waist-down and is being fitted for a wheelchair. 

Since the accident happened outside of the U.S., Veterans Affairs isn’t able to help with medical coverage until they get Howard back to Arizona.

“This is fun, this isn’t impossible,” Howard said with a smile from his hospital bed.

“It’s not impossible, not for Cody,” Fox added in.

Fox remains by Howard’s side in hospital with their 10-month-old son River.

Their family has started a GoFundMe in hopes of raising money to cover some of the bills they’ve accumulated so far. 

In just two days, it's already raised more than $130-thousand dollars (USD).