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‘Hero’ bartender saved customer

Quick action with defibrillator available helps keeps heart attack victim alive

Submitted article Ocean Pines Association

(Nov. 4, 2021) Quick thinking on the part of a local bartender – and a well-placed defibrillator – helped save a life on Sunday at the Ocean Pines Clubhouse Bar and Grille.

A male patron, whose name was not released, appeared to have a heart attack on Sunday, when bartender Rob Ruszin and manager Judie Scotti sprang into action.

Scotti said she was coming back into the building at around 1 p.m. when she noticed a customer in distress.

“He was on the floor, and it sounded like he was having some breathing issues,” she said. “Rob was on the phone with 911. They told him to roll [the man] on his back and then he handed me the phone.”

Ruszin, who worked as a lifeguard for several summers and received defibrillator training while in college, tried to administer CPR. Scotti said that man started turning blue, was not breathing and did not have a heartbeat.

“I ran and grabbed the AED [Automated External Defibrillator] out of the hallway and ran back, and Rob hooked him up and followed the directions and shocked him,” Scotti said. “At that point, Rob was doing CPR on him, and he started getting color back.”

Ruszin said the whole incident, from the time the man slumped over until the time he used the defibrillator, lasted about two minutes.

“It felt like forever though!” he said. “[The defibrillators] really do save lives. It was nerve-wracking, but the fire chief came and thanked us afterward. And throughout it, everyone stayed calm and worked together. Everyone helped out.”

Soon after the resuscitation, EMS workers transported the man to TidalHealth, in Salisbury.

“I got an update that he was doing well in Salisbury, so I was very happy about that,” Scotti said. “Rob did a great job. He was quick and responsive, as well as myself, but I feel like Rob did most of the work. Together, we made it work.”

Ocean Pines Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Grunewald said the man was alert and responsive when EMS arrived. And Ruszin, he said, was a genuine hero.

“He saved the guy’s life – there’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever. He did a fantastic job,” Grunewald said. “It was absolutely fantastic work in a stressful situation by the staff at the clubhouse. Without the quick thinking of the bartender, the outcome could have been drastically different.

“It also speaks to the importance of these AEDs in public buildings,” he continued. “That AED just paid for itself. It saved that gentleman’s life. But the big hero is the bartender – he stepped in and went beyond his normal job duties, and he saved this person’s life.”

Aquatics Director Kathleen Cook maintains defibrillators across all Ocean Pines facilities, and supplies information to staff on how to use them. That includes the Administration Building and Community Center, all five pools, all three restaurants, and the Golf Club, Marina and Racquet Sports Center.

Studies have shown that quick use of a defibrillator can drastically increase a person’s chance of survival.

A National Institutes of Health report said the survival rate was 74 percent for victims who received their first defibrillation within three minutes, while those who received their first defibrillation after three minutes have a survival rate of just 49 percent.

Additionally, an American Heart Association study showed that cardiac arrest victims who received a shock from a publicly available AED had far greater chance of survival and being discharged from the hospital (66.5 percent) than those who did not (43 percent).

Cook said she tests all the units monthly, and last checked the Clubhouse Bar and Grille defibrillator just a week ago.

“I’m just thrilled that it was there and that it worked,” she said. “[The defibrillator] would have never shocked him unless he needed it, so the guy was in trouble. So, hats off to Judie and Rob. They handled it flawlessly.”

General Manager John Viola said he was proud of the team and gratified that their training and knowledge paid off.

“Their quick actions probably saved a life on Sunday. As a resident, that’s extremely comforting,” he said. “We purchased defibrillators last year for all of our facilities, and many of our staff are trained to use them in case of an emergency. Going forward, that will continue to be a priority, and we’ll ensure these devices are working and that our team members know how to use them.”