It wasn’t Wilf Driedger’s time.
Fate, luck, and the heroic actions of Maryrose McConnell and Dave Patrick — strangers who Wilf calls his “angels” — had a hand in the 70-year-old Murrayville resident still being around today to walk his dog and continue his passion of building models.
On Sept. 26, Wilf collapsed near his Murrayville home while walking his dog Toffee.
He had suffered a cardiac arrest.
Wilf remembers nothing about the incident. He woke up at Royal Columbian Hospital on Oct. 2, nearly a week later.
It was pure serendipity that Wilf was outdoors when his heart stopped and not alone in his house.
And it was pure fate that McConnell was there to wade through the crowd of onlookers to help.
McConnell was home at the time and ran out to her car to, she says, “grab something.”
“I saw people standing around a man and I went over to see if I could be of any assistance,” McConnell shared.
“When I got to the incident I realized he didn’t have a pulse and was completely blue. No one there had any training and didn’t know what to do, so I started doing compressions on him. I was doing them for about two minutes when coincidentally my boss’s husband was driving by and saw me and pulled over.
Davy (Patrick) is a firefighter and was off duty at the time… but when he got there he took over for me until the ambulance showed up.”
Wilf said he didn’t feel unwell “at all” during his walk.
“Not until I got to the church, then boom, I was gone,” he said.
Despite McConnell’s and Patrick’s efforts, Wilf’s prognosis wasn’t good.
“They hit me twice with the paddles, once there and once on the way, and then they hit me three more times, yet,” Wilf said. “I said I always wanted to go lights and sirens, but not like that.”
The specialist at RCH told Wilf he shouldn’t be alive. “And secondly, I should have either had some lung damage or some brain damage.”
Wilf’s wife Lois and daughter Cristal Schroeder were told not to get their hopes up.
“There was so much to absorb,” Lois said. “I remember the doctor walking around him and trying to get him to respond, and checking his eyes and breathing tubes, and she was just shaking her head back and forth.”
Today, Wilf relies on a defibrillator pacemaker. “If my heart stops, it’ll zap me,” he said.
He believes he would surely have died if not for the actions of the two people who sprang to action.
“Maryrose, she’s the hero in this whole thing,” Wilf said. “She did the compressions. I’m a fairly big guy and compressions are not easy to do on someone who’s big and you’ve got to push. They got me going until the ambulance got there.”
Tears in his eyes, overcome with emotion, Wilf said, “What can you say when someone saves your life?”
“It’s just amazing,” Lois said. “We need more people like that to go ahead and jump in.”
Lois believes McConnell and Patrick deserve medals.
“I wish the city would have some kind of award that they could give Mary and Dave, because that would be really nice,” Wilf said.
McConnell doesn’t view herself as a hero.
“I just did what I could, and hope that others would do the same for myself or my family,” she said.
The first few days after the incident, before she knew if Wilf had survived, was a very difficult and emotional time for McConnell.
“Not knowing if I helped him or did enough was tough, so hearing he survived and then meeting him for the first time was beyond amazing,” she said. “I felt a huge relief and seeing him with his family was the greatest moment to witness.”