'Gord Deval's journey was the kind of trip that most anglers do not come back from.

On a late February morning, the 74-year-old president of the Scarborough Fly & Bait Casting Association was making final preparations for a day of ice fishing when he was struck with a sharp pain in his abdomen.

Deval had hoped the pain would subside and he'd resume preparing for his trip to a frozen lake in Haliburton with fishing buddy Jim Lloyd.

Little did he know, the pain was a direct result of gall stones in his bladder breaking away and becoming lodged in the duct leading to his pancreas. The obstruction led the pancreas to inflate and eventually release the toxins it stored to Deval's other organs.

His wife Sheila called paramedics and he was rushed to The Scarborough Hospital Grace Division's intensive care unit where he spent time in a medically induced coma while his body recovered from the toxic shock.

"He was swollen like a balloon. His circulation had shut down and he was in a coma," said Dr. Khoa Le, one of five doctors looking after Deval during his stay in the hospital. "He was out for a very long time and even his recovery was not so smooth."

He would have to undergo several procedures and weeks of intensive rehab before being released in May.

"They went into five different areas to drain out all the toxins in my body," said a now healthy Deval during an interview at his home. "I was told my heart stopped three times - once in the ambulance and twice at the hospital."

To show his gratitude to hospital staff for saving his life, Deval promised he'd return months later with a gift.

For almost 60 years, Deval has taken part in national and international casting competitions where participants cast fishing plugs for distance or accuracy.

In fact, the local angler has been a Canadian champion roughly 20 times and has established several world records at various events over the years.

"I dreamt that I'd never be able to do that again," said an emotional Deval. "I told (his wife) Sheila 'I don't know if I'm well enough to go to the national tournament.'"

The veteran caster not only competed in the North American Fly and Bait Casting Championships earlier this month, he also won two bronze medals.

"I told (the nurses) I'm going to get strong enough to go to the casting tournament and I'm going to get you a medal. I don't know if it'll be a gold medal, but I'm bloody well getting you a medal."

On Friday, he made good on his promise, returning to the hospital's ICU with the two medals.

"You are the primary reason why I'm still alive," he told the nurses during the presentation.

"He's a lucky guy, he was very ill," said nurse Patricia Tamlin.

"We don't often see people go and then come back like he did.... but when they do it's special."