Rob Martin had been at Martin Stadium only for an hour when something went wrong.
“I didn’t feel well,” he says.
Washington State University was hosting the University of Utah in an important football game last fall. Martin, 56, who lives near Seattle with his wife and daughter and works as an engineer at Boeing, had an extra club-level ticket.
Also there was Andrea Perry (’11 Nursing). She’s married with two young children and in a fight for her life. Perry, 33, has colon cancer. She’s had surgery to remove a tumor and a section of her colon. That was followed by five weeks of radiation, a chemotherapy pump, dehydration, vomiting, and an emergency room visit.
“As crappy as the diagnosis was,” she says, “it made me slow down and take time with my family.”
Perry is an emergency room nurse. She works at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. Her husband, Ryan, is a nurse anesthetist. They have two children, a daughter and son, ages 3 and 1.
The Perry family holds WSU season tickets. Their seats are in Section 9. Prior to the season, Andrea posted on a fan message board, indicating she would miss some games this season.
A long-time WSU donor saw the message and reached out to Andrea, offering four of his club-level seats for the Utah game.
“We’d never sat in the club level,” she says.
Martin didn’t know he had a heart condition when he went to that game. Andrea Perry couldn’t have known about it either. But as Andrea and her husband stood in line to get coffee, they looked over and noticed Martin sitting nearby, distressed.
Ryan had their 1-year-old son, Grayson, strapped to his chest in a baby carrier. Their 3-year-old daughter, Blakeley, was off to Andrea’s side.
“That guy doesn’t look good,” Andrea whispered.
Ryan walked over to check. He noted that Martin was pale, sweating, and struggling to sit up. Just then, Martin slumped forward in the chair.
“I ran over,” says Andrea. “He was unresponsive.”
The ER nurse worked through a pandemic. Her husband did too. Now, they were at a Cougar football game, back on the front line. The WSU fan had no pulse. He wasn’t breathing. His color was fading. Andrea yelled, “Can you hear me!?”
So Andrea did what she’s trained to do. She used the knuckles of her fist to perform a sternal rub on his chest.
Still no response.
“I knew I had to start CPR,” Andrea says.
She and her husband moved Martin to the floor. While the teams were playing on the field, the ER nurse began chest compressions.
Martin’s arms flew up. He gasped for air.
“He didn’t know what happened,” Andrea says. “He didn’t know where he was.”
Paramedics arrived. Martin spent the night in the hospital. The following day, he was discharged. Doctors say he has an “electrical signal” issue with his heart. It can be corrected without surgery.
“I appreciate that Andrea was present and willing to step in,” Martin says. “She’s an angel.”
The nurse received a call from WSU football coach Jake Dickert. Running back Nakia Watson filmed a personal message for her. Also, former Cougars’ coach Mike Leach reached out.
“I heard you saved a guy,” Leach said. “What are the chances?”
Turns out, she wasn’t done either.
A couple of weeks later, Andrea and her family were driving on US-95 from Spokane to Pullman for the Arizona State game. A fellow Washington State fan was pulled over on the side of the road in distress, having a seizure and struggling to breathe. Andrea and her husband pulled over. She snapped into ER nurse mode, clearing the patient’s airway and instructing an arriving state trooper to dispatch Life Flight.
“I’m becoming a very firm believer that things happen for a reason and people are put in places they are needed,” Andrea says. “Before my cancer I didn’t believe that.”
Andrea may have been thinking of others, but she had a scan scheduled for herself too. Doctors wanted to see if her cancer had returned.
“You’re going to get good news,” Leach told her on their call.
He was right.
Says Andrea, “I’m in remission.”
Andrea Perry and family (Courtesy Lauren Kahns/GoFundMe)
Read the full story at JohnCanzano.com.