NEWPORT – Something about the day was bugging her right from the start.
“It was one of those days,” Alison Ruebusch said, “when you’d think, ‘Everything that could happen, would happen.’ ”
She was right. Two times that day Ruebusch, operations director of Ride the Ducks, found herself in a position to help rescue someone. Once in the morning. Once in the evening.
Ruebusch was in her Newport Aquarium office Jan. 24 when she heard a radio call for help with a man who had collapsed.
“I jumped up and went to the first aid room and got the AED,” she said, referring to the aquarium’s automated external defibrillator. She headed for the Jellyfish Gallery.
Ruebusch teaches rescue classes, but this would be the first time she’d put her skills to work.
Little did she know it was the first of two times in one day that would happen.
Ruebusch recalled the incidents Tuesday, a day after the Newport Fire Department gave her an award for her rescue work.
When she got to the Jellyfish Gallery, she saw an aquarium guest giving chest compressions to a man. Ruebusch plugged in the AED and assisted the woman, who Ruebusch learned later was a nurse practitioner. The woman shocked the man and gradually, Ruebusch said, “he came around.”
“It was kind of surreal,” she said. “It’s just incredible.”
Once Newport Fire Department paramedics arrived at 10:40 a.m. to take over and get the man to a hospital, Ruebusch returned to her office.
“I just tried to go back to work,” she said. But it wasn’t possible.
“My director called me and said, ‘Are you OK?’ I said, ‘No. No I’m not.’ I was still shaken up.”
Ruebusch headed out for lunch with another staffer but didn’t return to work afterward. Later in the day, she said, “I decided that I needed some retail therapy,” and she and a colleague headed to Target at Newport Pavilion.
It was just before 5 p.m.
She was about to check out, she said, when she heard alarm in a man’s voice. He was rushing toward her and others nearby.
“I couldn’t even believe this was happening,” she said. “He was saying, ‘I need help. My girlfriend just locked herself in the bathroom.’ ”
“I was like, ‘Is this a joke?'” Ruebusch recalled.
But the woman had fallen in the family restroom and the door was locked. She couldn’t move, so the staff was trying to wrest the door open from the outside.
“I asked for a quarter, and someone gave me a quarter,” Ruebusch said. “I don’t know why someone had a quarter. I used the quarter to unlock the door.”
Ruebusch cautioned not to move the woman, who may have injured her back or neck. Within minutes Newport Fire Department responded, and Ruebusch watched as a team of paramedics took over.
“I said, ‘There’s some familiar faces,’ ” Ruebusch recalled.
Newport Fire Chief Gary Auffart said what Ruebusch did that day illustrates the importance of quick thinking, a calm demeanor and – with the first incident at the aquarium – having an AED and knowing how to use it.
“The gentleman was in cardiac arrest,” Auffart said. “Alison knew to grab that AED. She knew how to hook it up.”
Ruebusch is certified in American Red Cross First Aid, CPR and AED use, said Jeff Geiser, a spokesman for Newport Aquarium and Ride the Ducks. “Alison often leads training classes that allow employees … to obtain their certifications. We are truly grateful for her actions and are fortunate to have her as an employee.”
Ruebusch did not take credit for the rescues. She was glad the nurse was at the aquarium and rushed to help the victim in cardiac arrest.
“If she hadn’t been there, the whole thing could’ve had a different outcome,” Ruebusch said.
She said of the incident at Target, “It was a team effort.”
Ruebusch said what happened that day taught her a lesson, too – one that she can now pass on to her students.
“I have had time to process it. It reassures me,” she said. “When I’m in class, I get the question, ‘What if I don’t know what to do?’
“Now I can tell my classes, ‘You will know.'”