BIG ARM - We’ve all heard the phrase that life can change in a blink of an eye.
This was the case two years ago in the small community of Big Arm just northwest of Polson as two men became forever connected after a life-altering event.
Fast action, a steady hand, and the willingness to help a stranger saved a man’s life.
We introduce you to Rodney Depoe, this week's Unsung Hero.
Rich Protsman lives on a farm in the small town of Geraldine east of Great Falls.
He was working out of Ronan during the Boulder 2700 Fire on Finley Point in August of 2021 helping fill single-engine air tankers with fire retardant.
Rich and his coworkers were off shift when they decided to explore Flathead Lake.
"We just started backing away from the dock, and I evidently collapsed,” said Protsman.
Depoe was looking out on Flathead Lake from the backyard of his home adjacent to the Walstad Fishing Access Site in Big Arm as a boat took off towards Wild Horse Island.
He quickly realized something was wrong.
“Five minutes later they’re coming back in, they beached the boat on the shore saying that the guy was having a heart attack,” said Depoe.
With no cell service in the area, Rodney rushed inside his home calling 911 from his landline.
He then ran over to his Mission Valley Power work truck and grabbed an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
“Ran over and laid him out and hooked it up and did CPR on him.”
Rodney said it was roughly 15 minutes before first responders arrived on scene.
“He took three, three shocks before when the ambulance showed up that he had a pulse.”
Rich suffered a heart attack and was airlifted to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.
His doctors said he would not have survived if Rodney did not immediately use his AED.
“I mean it’s just holy cow, there’s no life without what he did, that’s why if people have them around, it means life and death,” said Protsman.
Months after the incident, Rich and Rodney met in person, Rich gave Rodney a special plaque, calling him the angel that saved his life.
“Thanked me, thanked me dearly for It.”
At 77 years old, Rich feels like he can never repay Rodney for giving him the gift of life, as he spends his days with his five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
"It’s just because what he meant to me and what he did for me,” added Protsman.
Both Rich and Rodney encourage every business and family to buy and learn how to use AEDs.
It could one day save your life.
“The more people that understand what they do and what they do for you, the better off it is,” said Prostman.
“It can happen anytime, and I just hope if it happens to me that somebody else will do the same to me,” added Depoe.