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Wash. woman thankful to physical therapists, paramedics for saving her life

Alisa Grubbs had just warmed up and started stretching when she suddenly collapsed


Photo/City of Lexington

By Owen Sexton
The Chronicle

CENTRALIA, Wash. — While undergoing treatment last May at Freeborn Wellness Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy in Centralia, Alisa Grubbs, of Rochester, suddenly suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed.

Her life was saved by the quick application of CPR and other lifesaving measures carried out by Freeborn Wellness therapists Justin Thompson and Phillip Brower.

Since then, she has undergone multiple procedures — including open-heart surgery — and has again suffered cardiac arrest requiring resuscitation.

Despite the ordeals, Grubbs, 60, holds on to her faith and her gratitude to those who have repeatedly saved her life over the past 10 months.

“It has been a scary, scary road, but I’ve wanted to do this for a while and thank them,” Grubbs told The Chronicle, describing her reasoning for coming forward. “I was so wrapped up physically, mentally and emotionally in my own struggles, I hadn’t been able to.”

Prior to May 2023, Grubbs didn’t have any heart problems.

Her presence at Freeborn Wellness Physical Therapy during her heart scare came as she was being treated after undergoing spinal fusion surgeries along with a hip replacement.

Grubbs doesn’t remember much about the day her heart stopped the first time.

“I had gotten off (a recumbent bicycle) and stood up and took two or three steps, and I remember those steps but I don’t remember anything else. I just looked at Justin and said, ‘Oh no,’ but I don’t remember saying that,” Grubbs said.

While Thompson and Brower completed CPR and automated external defibrillator certifications as part of the physical therapy licensing process, Thompson said he never had to actually use his training in real life before.

“It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Just a regular day. She had warmed up and started her program with some stretching and just collapsed all of a sudden, no warning, and down she went,” Thompson said. "... You hope you never have to use (your training), but in this situation it was good we were educated and able to resuscitate her.”

Other Freeborn Wellness employees aided Thompson and Brower, including a newly hired physical therapy technician on their third day of work.

“Yeah, he went home after that,” Cummins added.

“I don’t know that anybody is really prepared to have that occur,” Thompson said. “You can do all the training you want but, until it actually occurs, you don’t know how you’re going to respond. And it’s a good thing I had a team of people that are trained and educated here, because you do kind of blank for a minute and then things start to kick in and other people, Phillip particularly, jump right in. He was really sharp in getting everything organized and going through it.”

Paramedics quickly arrived and rushed Grubbs to the hospital for further life-saving treatment. While there have been medical emergencies at Freeborn Wellness requiring paramedics in the past, this was the first time someone suffered cardiac arrest at the physical therapy clinic, Cummins added.

Like Grubbs, Thompson is thankful for the quick response of the paramedics and their help on the phone even before they arrived.

After that day, Grubbs returned to Freeborn Wellness to thank the staff. She contacted The Chronicle this year with a desire to show her appreciation publicly. She said she wants to let the community know how they, along with other medical professionals she has seen since, have saved her life on multiple occasions.

Doctors have discovered and removed blockages in Grubbs’s heart. They have also diagnosed her with cardiac arrhythmia, an electrical problem in the heart. Additionally, she has suffered from three flash pulmonary edemas, a “dramatic form of acute decompensated heart failure,” according to the National Library of Medicine.

From what Grubbs has been told by her doctors and paramedics, she also believes God has had a hand in her survival.

“I’ve had nurses and doctors, they’ve had to acknowledge and say, ‘somebody’s hand is over you,’” Grubbs said. “Because most people don’t survive the flash pulmonary edema once, and I’ve survived it three times, and the cardiac arrest, and they all can’t believe I’m still here.”

She added her husband, Brian, is also thankful to the paramedics and medical workers who have helped save his wife’s life multiple times.

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