Adult hockey: 'Heather and hockey saved my life'

Feb. 13—WILLMAR — Heather Coleman's pivotal response prevented a catastrophic moment and brought Tim Rehn a second life.

Rehn, who was competing in a

Willmar Christian Hockey League

game on Dec. 10 at Willmar Civic Center Arena, collapsed while on the ice.

The 54-year-old was heading for a line change during his second shift of the game when his collapse occurred in the first period of play.

"I felt my strength draining out of me and then the lights went off," Rehn said.

That's when Coleman, who is a retired Emergency Medical Technician (1998-2016), sprinted onto the ice to evaluate the situation. Her husband, Jay, is the goalie on Rehn's adult hockey team — Rising Son.

Coleman would get to Rehn within 19 seconds, finding him unresponsive and incoherent. He was gasping, foaming and gurgling at the mouth with his eyes rolled back and face turning blue.

The retired EMT immediately jumped into action and started to provide medical care to Rehn.

Coleman began with a sternum rub.

It is a technique used to test an unconscious person's responsiveness because it is painful and should provoke a response


But, for Coleman, she didn't get a response from Rehn.

"I hadn't asked for an AED because he was still moving some air, and all of a sudden, he quit moving air and went limp," Coleman said. "He had no pulse."

Rehn went into cardiac arrest.

Quickly, Coleman's 18-year-old daughter, Jaycie, grabbed emergency medical supplies, including an AED (Automated External Defibrillator).

Coleman continued her care with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). She did 30 compressions and the AED delivered a "no shock advised" message.

She did 30 more compressions and a shock was delivered on her second attempt to bring Rehn back to life.

All of these actions transpired within four minutes.

"I thought he was gone," Coleman said. "I didn't think we were bringing him back at all. Not even for one minute.

"I actually kind of prayed to the AED — 'Please be shockable. Please shock him. Please shock him.' And it did."

Rehn remembers nothing from the moments he was unconscious, and when he did come back to life, one of his hands was in the hands of his wife, Pam, and the other remained with Coleman.

"When Heather got him back, he was completely normal other than in disbelief," Pam said of Rehn, who was cracking jokes.

"He decided he was just going to open up his eyes and be better," Coleman said.

"Well, I was," Tim added, as he and Heather laughed. "I was."

In his first moments back, Rehn could not wrap his head around the fact of what happened.

"From that instant when I came back around, I still felt fine," Rehn said. "I was bewildered at what was going on."

Rehn would later be transported to CentraCare's Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar before being transferred to another CentraCare facility in St. Cloud for further care and evaluation.

It was a rarity for Coleman to be at Jay and Rehn's hockey game that Sunday evening.

Coleman, once in every blue moon, attends Jay's hockey games. Jaycie attends more regularly.

"First and foremost, I don't go to his hockey games," Coleman said. "I've watched (Jay) maybe three times in six years."

Coleman headed to the rink to pick up Jaycie, who is a figure skater, and with Jay set to play a game, the two planned to stay and watch a portion of his game. The two were then going to drive to a hotel in the Twin Cities in order to catch an early Monday morning flight to New York City.

"We were going to watch Jay for a few minutes, blow kisses and say goodbye," Coleman said. "They scored a goal. It was all excitement. Then it was a shift change and Tim started skating towards the boards.

"Then it was just slow motion and he crumbled."

This is the first season Rehn has competed in the WCHL. A former coworker of his convinced him to join the league.

It marked his first time playing hockey since he was a freshman in high school. Rehn did not know if he could even skate.

The league hosted an open hockey night for players in the league to "knock the rust off the skates" on Oct. 22.

Rehn went and watched, shaking his head.

"There's absolutely no way I can play with these young guys," Rehn said.

At that moment, he decided he was not going to play in the league until he ran into Jay Halliday, who is a WCHL player, and he convinced Rehn to play out the season.

"The reason why I am here is because I was playing hockey that night and Heather decided to show up and say goodbye to her husband before leaving for New York," Rehn said. "There's a dozen variables that had to line up just right for all this to turn out the way it did.

"Heather and hockey saved my life."

Rehn later found out that his left anterior descending artery, known as the widow-maker artery, was 100% blocked and another artery was 90% blocked.

According to 2021 U.S. Data for adult outside-of-hospital cardiac arrests, survival to hospital discharge was 9.1% for all EMS-treated non-traumatic OHCAs


"Tim shouldn't even be here with the blockage," Coleman said. "It's a miracle that he's here."

"It is a miracle," Rehn added. "Heather is the hero."

Rehn had four stents inserted in his two blocked arteries while in St. Cloud. He was released Dec. 12 — less than 48 hours after his cardiac arrest — and has 12 medications to take daily.

Rehn has also been doing cardiac rehabilitation under medical supervision. He has been able to run, and many times, he has been told to slow down.

"I feel great," Rehn said. "The only soreness I've had I believe is from the compressions."

Rehn has an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test coming up in about a month and a half to check up on his arteries and assess any damage.

Rehn and Coleman believe the damage, if any, will be minimal.

"To have no brain damage, no nothing," Coleman said. "That's unheard of."

Rehn added, "It's remarkable and I can only attribute that to her immediately starting on me."

Coleman acted swiftly within the four minutes it took to bring Rehn back to life.

"You can't be afraid because they're already dying," Coleman said. "If I wouldn't have been aggressive, Tim wouldn't be here. You just have to act."

Coleman also wants people to know what's important about her swift act.

"That immediate electrical activity of pumping the chest is what saved him to have that heart beat," Coleman said. "You just need to keep the blood going."

Rehn admitted he was not "terribly surprised" he had a cardiac arrest given that his family history is "full of it."

Aware of that, Rehn and his doctor have monitored his health closely while he has maintained a healthy and active lifestyle.

Rehn has completed marathons and half marathons in his lifetime. Recently throughout the fall and summer, he usually ran four times a week, anywhere between 3-8 miles per run.

He knows that he has exerted himself much harder in past workouts than in the hockey game where he collapsed.

"That's something that Pam and I talked about a lot. What if this would have occurred on one of my eight-mile runs out in the middle of nowhere?" Rehn said. "I wouldn't be here."

Part of the reason Rehn retired at 54 was because members in his family have had short lifespans. He retired last spring after working for Border States Electric in Willmar for 28 years.

The day after his final work date, Pam told him, "you retire and have a heart attack on me. I will kill you."

"There's several people that I know that they retire and something happens to them," Pam said. "Knowing his family history, it's always been something that's kind of in the back of our minds."

Ultimately, Rehn's goal is to return to doing everything he could do before the cardiac arrest.

Coleman and Rehn did not know of each other before his cardiac arrest.

The following Sunday (Dec. 17), Rehn met Coleman back at the Willmar Civic Center where the two discussed in more detail what had happened.

Coleman also gave Rehn a Minnesota-shaped sign made of Barnwood and hockey sticks with a metal add-on that represents a heartbeat line and the date of the event.

Coleman started a business called "

Simple Days on the Lake

" in 2017. She tears down barns and uses the reclaimed wood to make many of her projects and operates the business out of her garage in Pennock.

"Not only does she save my life, but she goes ahead and does this as well," Rehn said. "I was struggling with — How do you adequately thank the person that saved your life."

Rehn knew the Colemans enjoyed hockey.

He reached out to Luke Mericle, an Associate Account Executive of Sales and Service for the Minnesota Wild, via email detailing what he wanted to accomplish: take the Colemans to a Wild game.

Mericle called him back the next day and was blown away with Rehn's email. Rehn then told Mericle the full story.

Mericle would go on to invite Rehn and Pam as well as the Colemans to sit in a suite together at the Wild game against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 27.

The Wild surprised Coleman and Rehn with custom jerseys, which had their last names and the numbers 12 and 10 on the back of them to represent the date of the event.

"This was an opportunity for us to really try to thank Heather and her family and also get to know each other," Rehn said. "The Wild did that for us and it was really cool."

Moving forward, Rehn wants to be involved in the education of CPR and the use of AEDs.

He is looking into and hoping for AEDs to be installed in as many places as possible in the community.

There has already been an AED installed at Cash Wise and another one coming to Robbins Island that the Willmar Rotary Club has been instrumental in getting installed, according to Rehn.

"Now I have this second life that has more gravity to it than the first life," Rehn said. "What do I do with this life? There's a lot of weight with that, trying to figure that out."

And, because of Coleman, Rehn will have the ability and time to pursue these new goals in his retirement as he searches for ways to help save and impact more people's lives in the future.

"The gift that Heather has given can't ever be repaid and the memories that take you back and the things that could have gone so differently, didn't. You just can't put that into words," Pam said. "We're eternally grateful for her and the skills she has and her willingness to jump to somebody's aid even though that's not her world anymore."