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There when it mattered

Hamann recognized for response to life threaten ing health issue 

BY NATASHA BARBER
STAFF WRITER


RICE – Nine months after experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, Brenda Marthaler is alive and doing well.

“I am doing very well; I’m on a very good inhaler,” said Marthaler, of Rice. “I’m doing very well, thank God.”

In addition to the Almighty, Marthaler is grateful for the quick response of emergency responders. She especially thanks one man for being there when she was in a most dire need.

Rice Police Chief Ross Hamann was recognized at the July 15 city council meeting in Rice for the role he played in saving Marthaler’s life. Fred W. Segler, commander of the American Legion Hasso Briese Post No. 473, presented Hamann with a plaque on behalf of the Legion family for his efforts in saving Marthaler, a color guard and Auxiliary member.

“This was by no means all me,” Hamann said when accepting the award. “It took a huge team of our fire department, our rescue departments and the hospital. Everybody played a huge part in this, but I’ll accept it. Thank you.”

According to the American Heart Association, sudden cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function due to an electrical malfunction in the heart. People lose consciousness and have no pulse. About 90% of people who experience cardiac arrest outside a hospital setting die; treatment must begin within minutes in order to survive. 

Marthaler, who had suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – characterized by progressive breathlessness – was alone the day her heart failed.

Diagnosed with COPD nearly one year prior to that fateful day Oct. 19, 2018, Marthaler had been to urgent care and the emergency room multiple times.

“I was having trouble breathing three days before that, but breathing trouble was becoming pretty much a daily thing for me,” Marthaler said. “I was still smoking at that time. That day I woke up, and I did have a cigarette, but I only took two puffs.”

Marthaler’s shallow breathing was too much.

“I was having a really hard time breathing,” she said. “I was just inhaling basically; I could hardly exhale.”

Although Marthaler’s timeline of the day is muddled, she remembers crawling her way up the stairs from the lower level of her bi-level home to the front door where she let her dog outside. She rested on the doorstep, hoping someone would see her and offer help.

“I didn’t have my phone on me, and it was that bad,” Marthaler said.

After waiting with no sign of passersby, Marthaler crawled the second flight of stairs over a span of two hours. She located her phone and called 911. Marthaler faintly told the dispatcher twice that she could not breathe.

“That’s all I remember until I woke up two and a half days later in the hospital,” Marthaler said.

Hamann was the only Rice police officer on duty that afternoon. He responded to the scene.

“He saw me standing and mumbling something, and then I collapsed,” said Marthaler, of the account she was told of following her recovery.

Marthaler’s heart had stopped.

According to Marthaler, it took emergency responders four minutes to revive her from cardiac arrest. She was transported to the hospital where she was a patient for one week before being released.

Today, Marthaler and her doctors have found an inhaler medication that is controlling her COPD.

For Hamann, it is a positive outcome to what he considers routine work.   

“It’s so rare that we get an outcome like this where somebody does survive and thrives afterwards,” he said. “Most of the time when we end up doing CPR on someone, we hear the person just didn’t make it. So, it makes it that much more special when this happens.”
 
Marthaler is grateful Hamann responded so quickly.
 
 “I have a lot of respect for him,” Marthaler said. “I am thankful for him every day. He did have help, but he was the first on scene. A couple minutes could have been the difference of me dying or having brain damage. … If it would have been a minute or two later, I might not be here today. Those few minutes did more than he thinks.”