It began as an ordinary day for Russell Ruhle, a driver for WM (formerly Waste Management), one of the city’s contractors for collecting trash, yard waste and recyclables. But then, as Ruhle maneuvered his truck up the 4000 block of Sunnyside, he noticed someone signaling to him from the sidewalk. It was mid-afternoon on Friday, October 14.
It had been an ordinary day for Neal Stuber as well. While his wife, Carol, was out doing some shopping, Neal busied himself with some yard work outside his home in the 4000 block of Sunnyside. As he went up the stairs to his front door to plug in an extension cord, Neal became aware of liquid dripping down his leg. Then he looked down and, “There was a trail of blood like crazy!” A vein in his leg had ruptured. He quickly considered what to do, and thought, “By the time I go inside, find my phone and call 911, things are not going to work out well.”
So he headed back down the stairs to the sidewalk where he noticed Ruhle’s recycling truck, and gave him an urgent wave. Ruhle sprang to Stuber’s aid, calling 911 and waiting with Stuber until help arrived. Stuber commented to me, “You take for granted that fire and ambulance are going to do their jobs [provide emergency care] because that’s what they’re paid to do, but sanitation workers are not paid for that.” Ruhle placed a quick call to his boss to say, consistent with his safety training, that he would be delayed.
The police arrived first followed by the fire department and an ambulance. Neal was taken to the UW Medical Center where his vein was stitched. He was discharged that same day and has been feeling fine since. The fire department called Carol to fill her in on events. She summarized, “Neal had lost a great deal of blood. If the WM driver hadn’t done what he did, the fire department said he would have bled to death. There was blood all through the house. If Russell had not been there, I swear, Neal could be dead.”
There was a reunion of sorts last Friday as Russell Ruhle came through Stuber’s neighborhood on his usual route. A number of media folks showed up (we’ve linked to the Fox News video below), and Stuber says, “Russell was the star of the show.” Like many heroes, Russell is understated about this actions, saying, “I consider my route my neighborhood. So every single person in this neighborhood is my neighbor. So like I would take care of my neighbor in my neighborhood, I’m going to take care of the customer.”
As for Neal Stuber, he initially contacted the city and WM to express his thanks, but he had another important message. He wants us all to know that in spite of all the bad we hear on the news everyday “there are nice people in the world, good people in the world.”
My thanks to Angie Requena, WM public relations, for pointing us to this story, and for providing some of the material, most notably the photographs. She also added this note about WM Safety Training:
Safety training is a basic part of the job for WM drivers. Everyone at WM is trained to be watchful, to think quickly and to respond – to protect public safety – as part of WM Waste Watch program. WM started the program 12 years ago in the PNW. Now it is active in more than 100 communities across the country. The training focuses on “observing and reporting.” When drivers observe something unusual – like a front door wide open at 5 am, a child wandering alone or smoke coming from an attic – they are trained to report it to law enforcement. As a result of the WM Waste Watch training, WM drivers have helped save lives and solve crimes across the country. Drivers have helped locate missing children and are often the first on the scene to report fires and call 911.