INDIANAPOLIS - From newlywed to widow, Brooke Olzendam, the sideline reporter for the Pacers, credits the team with helping her heal after the sudden loss of her husband.
Just 10 days after her wedding to Andy Collins, a 27-year-old standout athlete, he suffered a fatal heart attack on the treadmill, which was later attributed to an undiagnosed heart defect.
"Unexpected doesn't even cover it. Shocking doesn't even cover it," Olzendam said.
The normally social Olzendam stayed in bed for a month before finally starting an intense grief counseling program, and eventually landing her job with the Pacers.
"(The counseling) really saved me. That's what got me through and then onto the other side," she said. "And this job, and these people here, really have been the reason I've gotten back to who I was before this happened."
Almost two years after the tragedy, Olzendam said she's stopped asking herself why or what if. Now she lives in the moment, enjoying a stellar season with the Pacers.
"This year, I have felt like a weight has been lifted off of me. I think about it still all the time, but I don't go to that dark place where I did last year, where I wasn't OK," she said. "This year I can think about it, and I look at it in a different way than I did last year."
Olzendam has also started working with the American Heart Association to put defibrillators in more places, and make sure people are trained to use them.
She encourages anyone struggling with grief to get counseling, lean on friends and family and don't think they can do it all alone.