March 19, 2023, began like any other Sunday at St. Thomas Citadel, in Ontario. Bob Barrett took his place in the band, where he plays the cornet, and the service started. Suddenly, he slumped over in his chair. He had suffered a heart attack and had gone into cardiac arrest.

In the congregation that day were Larry Rigg, his wife, Mary Beth, and their daughter, Mykaela Marshall. Larry is a trained emergency disaster services volunteer responder, Mary Beth is a retired emergency room nurse and Mykaela is trained in CPR, having worked as a head lifeguard.

After seeing Barrett slump over, they instinctively rushed to his side from their nearby seats, getting him out of the chair and onto his back. He had no pulse, so Mary Beth started administering CPR. With 911 called, Mykaela and Mary Beth each took turns giving CPR. With still no pulse, the automated external defibrillator (AED) was brought in from the church lobby. Barrett was given one shock from the machine, which restored his heartbeat.

Their presence in the service that day was providential. Normally, they attend nearby London Citadel, but they decided to go to St. Thomas because Lt-Colonels Les and Tiffany Marshall, territorial secretary for mission and assistant secretary for mission, respectively—and Mykaela’s in-laws—were leading the service that day, and they would be able to visit.

“When you stop to think about it, it’s kind of weird,” Larry says. “I’ve been retired for four years, and I remember saying to my wife that after being trained in CPR for 30 years, I’ve never had to use it. Then, out of the blue .…”

For their heroic efforts, Larry, Mary Beth and Mykaela were recently honoured with the Rescuer Award from the Canadian Red Cross, to acknowledge their quick-thinking response to the medical emergency.

By the time Barrett’s heartbeat was restored with the AED, paramedics and the fire department had shown up to take over treatment. Paramedics transported Barrett to a nearby hospital.

Barrett remembers playing the cornet at the start of the service and recalls slumping over in his chair, but beyond that he has no memory of being treated. The next thing he recalls is waking up in the intensive care unit, surrounded by machines.

“I think the Lord had a hand in making all these people available to me,” says Barrett. “The people that attended to me all knew what they were doing. Had the Rigg family not been there, I wouldn’t have had the right people take charge of the situation.” 

He and his wife, Joy, have met with the Riggs since his medical emergency, and he is back attending regular church services. 

“Naturally, we thanked them and said how fortunate we were. I couldn’t say anything more than ‘thank you’ and how good it was that they were there with everything they did for me,” Barrett says.

Joy says doctors told them that her husband is a lucky man to have survived. She believes their faith played a role in saving his life.

In another happy coincidence, the AED used on Barrett had recently had a new battery installed and the pads had just been replaced. “The defibrillator had been checked and was ready to go. It proved to be a very important thing,” Barrett says.

Adam Marshall, community outreach co-ordinator at St. Thomas Citadel, believes many “wow” factors lined up that day to save Barrett’s life.

“I’m incredibly proud of what my family did. I am proud of my wife, Mykaela, and my inlaws for their quick response. They responded without hesitation. It was inspiring to watch,” Marshall says.

Barrett spent four days in hospital to get his heart stabilized. He has been told to not overdo himself, so golfing, yard work and lifting heavy objects are out for a while, but he is still going to church, grocery shopping with Joy and running errands.

“I feel fine, and I feel I could do anything. I’m very grateful for everything that was done for me. I’m very fortunate.”

Chris McGregor is a marketing and communications co-ordinator – content in The Salvation Army’s Ontario Division.


On Thursday, October 12, 2023, Blair Cameron said:

Thank you for stepping in when you saw this gentleman was in a medical crisis. Definitely God made sure you were there to react and save this man's life. God bless. Blair Cameron, retired EMT/PCP ,Alberta.

On Thursday, October 5, 2023, Bill King said:

I was visiting there that Sunday and watched how these fine folks sprung into action. God placed them there that day. God Bless them.

On Thursday, October 5, 2023, Margaret Waters said:

I know these folks and was so pleased to hear of this incredible rescue indeed the Lord Himself was in the situation and we praise Him for His providential care

Leave a Comment