“Initially, when Trista started to go into her sort of seizure episode, there was some confusion because it’s just out of the blue unexpected and you’re sort of wondering What’s happening? and then you recognize what’s happening,” Ryan, 42, tells PEOPLE about Trista Sutter‘s medical emergency last month.
While on vacation in Europe at the beginning of June, Ryan — who met Trista on season 1 of The Bachelorette — watched his wife suffer a seizure while in Croatia with their family, including their two children, son Maxwell “Max” Alston, 9, and daughter Blakesley Grace, 8.
“For me, I sort of went into a little bit of a caretaker type of firefighter role in the limited capacity that I could on this shuttle bus. And just made sure that she wasn’t going to hit her head or bite her tongue or that sort of stuff that you always worry about. That part really was familiar to me, I guess, just because of my past and my job and that sort of stuff,” shares Ryan. “But then what was unfamiliar to me was watching my wife get loaded into an ambulance and drive away. That’s generally when I go back to the firehouse and wash my hands of the incident.”
According to the father of two, “the really difficult part then began” when he, his children and his parents “were there and trying to comprehend what just happened.”
“It made me realize that there’s so much to these emergency incidents than the actually emergency,” he shares.
Ryan tells PEOPLE that living through that experience was a “moment of awakening.”
“I just realized that what people are actually going through when their loved ones have these emergencies, that I sort of respond to and didn’t really realize,” he says.
In the time since the episode occurred, Ryan admits that his and Trista’s outlook on life has changed for the better.
“This sort of weird thing happened with Trista and I. It sort of reprioritized our life a little bit,” he says. “It’s kind of hard to explain the effect, but it’s been profound in the fact that we just don’t worry about things quite as much as we used to or stress about things quite as much as we used to. One, because I think stress played a factor in Trista’s seizure and two, because you just realize that life is kind of short and precious and that worrying too much — I mean obviously there are things you have to worry about in life — but too much of that is just wasting your time.”
RELATED VIDEO: Former Bachelorette Trista Sutter Suffers Seizure in Croatia
Although the couple is still pursuing a battery of medical tests to confirm what exactly caused Trista’s seizure, they’re being intentional about living life in the present.
“You just enjoy each day,” says Ryan, who will make his debut on Monday’s upcoming episode of American Ninja Warrior. “It kind of comes back to the whole philosophy with Ninja Warrior: Why wouldn’t you do this if you had the opportunity? What is there really to be afraid of? And if you slip and fall on the first obstacle, who cares really? It’s not that big of a deal.”
Since the episode, Ryan admits that they are “just a little bit more free-spirited and enjoying our life,” and are “hoping that we can maintain that philosophy.”
And to live out that free-spirited mentality, the family will be embarking on many more camping trips together in Colorado.
“We just bought a camper. I’ve been trying to get my wife to buy a camper for like years and then this thing happened and I was like, ‘So about that camper? We can go travel.’ And she said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ ”
Though the incident shook the Sutters, it will constantly serve as a necessary reminder to the family to be grateful for each day.
“Time sometimes takes over, and life takes over, and we’re trying not to allow ourselves to forget the importance of that moment in Europe and the effect that it’s had on our lives and continue to embrace sort of the days that we have on the planet,” says Ryan, who adds, “because you just never know.”
American Ninja Warrior airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.