A local couple who have spent their lives helping others received life-saving care themselves Saturday night at the Williams Lake Stampeders hockey game.
Ollie Martens was sitting beside Richard, her husband of almost 52 years, watching the Stampeders take on the Quesnel Kangaroos, as they do for every home game, when he suffered what was believed to be a heart attack.
“I just hung on to him,” said Ollie Tuesday from the couple’s home. “I guess I’m stronger than I look. I wasn’t going to let go.”
Richard had told her seconds before he felt like he was going to faint, and mentioned earlier that he wasn’t feeling well.
Seeing there was an emergency, surrounding fans sprang into action.
Marnie Brenner, a home care nurse who had been sitting behind Ollie and Richard, yelled out to nearby city staff member Nancy Feeley to run to grab the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex’s automated external defibrillator (AED).
“He was sweaty and I couldn’t feel a pulse,” Brenner said, noting she thought he wasn’t breathing.
Ollie, meanwhile, had attracted the attention of friend Will Lethbridge, who also took charge. With the help of Willy Devuyst the pair were able to lay Richard down in the stands in the event CPR was necessary.
Following prompts from the AED, Brenner dutifully performed compressions until Richard regained consciousness some four minutes later.
The Stampeders executive, meanwhile, put the hockey game on hold out of respect while they waited for an ambulance to arrive.
“Anybody would do it,” a modest Brenner told the Tribune. “In those moments it’s so important you can come across this type of help and so important to know CPR and first aid and to know where you’re at. It was amazing the way the community came together.”
Ollie echoed Brenner’s sentiments and said they are humbled by the community support.
“We live in a beautiful community,” Ollie said. “You don’t really know until something like this hits you.”
Richard, who is at home and feeling better, said he wants to thank everyone who helped in the arena, at the hospital and to the Stampeders executive for putting the game on hold for him.
“I feel very grateful,” Richard said.
Ollie said even Mayor Walt Cobb phoned their house to see if Richard was OK.
“We were very touched by that,” said Ollie who, as a devout Christian, was also comforted by the words of two women as they were leaving the arena for the hospital, who said they were going to pray for them.
“That meant a lot to us. We’re very humbled and thankful for everything everyone did, and so is our family.”
The incident, meanwhile, hasn’t slowed down the couple’s efforts to help others. The two were already volunteering Monday at the St. Vincent de Paul food bank.
They’re also gearing up to volunteer at the Yuletide Dinner Dec. 14, they will help the St. Vincent de Paul Society cook and deliver soup to the needy in Boitanio Park on Dec. 18 and, on Dec. 21, Ollie and Richard are putting on a dinner for roughly 35 clients and staff at the Jamboree Motel, which serves as a home for low-income people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
When they’re not doing that they’re quietly helping seniors in the community by giving them rides and cooking them cabbage rolls and perogies.
The two said they plan to be at this Saturday’s Stampeders game against the Quesnel Kangaroos.
“We love hockey. We go to every game. That’s our social life,” Ollie said, noting Nathan Zurak is their favourite player.
“But if this time Richard says he’s not feeling well I won’t make him go to the game.”