Cardiac arrest survivor Robert Marien leans on a hockey arena bench


Man on a mission

After a cardiac arrest, actor and singer Robert Marien is using his voice to save others. 

Chapter 1 Everything went dark

October 5, 2021 was like any other Tuesday for Québécois actor and singer Robert Marien. He was playing hockey with friends, just like he’d been doing for the past 20 years. He was pursuing the puck at the edge of the rink when everything stopped. 

“I thought I was playing particularly well. Then, everything went dark.” 

Robert was experiencing cardiac arrest. 

Two players immediately rushed to his side and started CPR while a third called 9-1-1. Meanwhile, another player ran to get the AED - an AED that happened to be installed at the arena a few years before through a partnership between the federal government and Heart & Stroke.  

By pure coincidence, a paramedic had just arrived at the arena to pick up his child. He was able to bring the AED on the ice and take over. The AED delivered a life-giving shock. Robert regained consciousness before the ambulance arrived. He was gone for 9 minutes. 

Robert Marien performing.

Robert Marien performing at a show.

Robert Marien with his wife Johanne at a theatre

Robert Marien and his wife, Johanne, enjoy going to the theatre together.

Robert Marien stands with four other men

Robert Marien with the bystanders who saved his life

After regaining consciousness, Robert was taken by ambulance to Le Gardeur Hospital where he underwent a series of tests. He was then transferred to the Montreal Heart Institute where surgeons installed a defibrillator and unclogged an artery. 

His teammates and first responders' quick action saved Robert’s life. “I was extremely lucky. If they’d hesitated, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”

Chapter 2 Simple actions can save a life

Still in his hospital bed, processing the events, Robert had one persistent thought: to teach everyone how simple things can save a life. Things like basic CPR, how to use an AED, calling 9-1-1, the willingness to jump in and help. He made himself a promise that he’d use his voice to increase public awareness and access to defibrillators.  

“There should be as many defibrillators as fire extinguishers in public places,” he insists. “ You don’t have to be a firefighter to use a fire extinguisher. It’s the same for AEDs, you don’t have to be a paramedic. They are easy to use, and they even tell you what to do. With the 9-1-1 dispatcher at the other end of the line and an AED close by, there’s nothing to be afraid of. You maximize the chances of saving someone’s life. I’m living proof of that.”

If they’d hesitated, I probably wouldn’t be here today.
Robert Marien

Now a spokesperson for the cause, Robert is pushing to have more AEDs installed in as many public places as possible. “At the end of the day, it’s the shock delivered by the AED that brought me back. It’s an incredible little device. I now have one at home and everywhere I go, I ask if there is one too.”

Chapter 3 Great humans, everyday heroes

Two years after his cardiac arrest, Robert is still extremely grateful to the friends who saved his life. “All I can say to them is a heartfelt ‘thank you’. You never know how much you affect other people’s lives, but these men had a huge impact on mine. They literally saved my life.”

Robert now makes the most out of every moment, every meal, every encounter and every note he sings. “Everything is a bonus, an experience I wouldn’t have had the chance to live without my teammates. I feel so grateful. I think about it constantly, and I’m very happy to be here.” 

“We all strive to be great humans and to become better versions of ourselves. The guys who saved me, they became great humans by circumstance. Anyone can be a hero. They did a simple thing, but a vital one. They will forever be in my heart.”