Donald and Debbie Rullman

Donald and Debbie Rullman (foreground) pose with members of Hilltop Ambulance during a luncheon on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, at the Luzerne Street Station.

Donald Rullman and his wife, Debbie, had just returned to their Westmont home after a happy night out on July 29 when Donald told Debbie he wasn’t feeling well and was going to lie down.

“I had been out watering the plants and was going to go back out when something told me not to,” Debbie said. “I went in and sat with him, so I was right there when it happened.”

Without warning, Donald suffered a heart attack that was nearly fatal.

“It was totally unexpected,” Donald said. “There was no warning, no heads up. When it happened, I was all but dead.”

During a luncheon on Sunday afternoon at the Hilltop Ambulance Association station on Luzerne Street, the Rullmans shared how a EMS crew was able to resuscitate Donald. Their story highlights how important it is for bystanders to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation – or CPR – before the ambulance arrives. October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month.

After Debbie realized Donald had suffered a heart attack, she said, she called 911 and placed the bedroom phone on speaker, freeing up her hands so that she could perform chest compressions and listen to the dispatcher at the same time.

“I’m a retired nurse,” Debbie said. “It was natural for me to do CPR. ... She (the dispatcher) was great. She was counting me. These paramedics and EMTs that got there were totally amazing. I’ve never been so impressed in all my life.”

The Hilltop Ambulance Association crew, paramedic Justin Henning and emergency medical technicians James Stutzman and Lisa Wagerer, arrived at the Rullmans’ Shannon Way home within 10 minutes. They were followed by Upper Yoder Township EMS personnel, West Hills Regional Fire Department firefighters and West Hills police officers.

“We probably had 12 people there,” Stutzman, who is also a West Hills police officer, recalled during Sunday’s luncheon.

The first responders continued CPR and used a defibrillator at the scene before Donald was transported to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, where he received further treatment.

“I would not be here talking to you” if it hadn’t been for Debbie’s quick reaction and the first responders’ knowledge and experience, he said.

The event was sponsored by Wagerer, who is also a financial adviser with Edward Jones on Town Centre Drive. 

Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5061. Follow him on Twitter @PatBuchnowskiTD.

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