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New Minas Tim Hortons worker hailed as hero for performing CPR on customer

Arnold Rafuse of Kentville wants New Minas resident Alicia Smith publicly recognized for performing CPR on his uncle March 6. Smith was working at the drive-thru Tim Hortons location in New Minas when Rafuse’s uncle collapsed in the parking lot. The duo is pictured walking outside of the Tim Hortons drive-thru in Kentville.
Arnold Rafuse of Kentville wants New Minas resident Alicia Smith publicly recognized for performing CPR on his uncle March 6. Smith was working at the drive-thru Tim Hortons location in New Minas when Rafuse’s uncle collapsed in the parking lot. The duo is pictured walking outside of the Tim Hortons drive-thru in Kentville. - Ashley Thompson

‘She gave him a new life’

NEW MINAS, N.S. —

Ron Dill’s decision to make time for Tim Hortons March 6 put him in the right place at a crucial time.

The 70-year-old Canning resident, widely known for his automotive repair talents, is a familiar face among Timmies regulars and employees at the drive-thru location in New Minas.

A coffee run is a regular part of his routine.

But his last coffee run was anything but routine.

Supervisor Alicia Smith certainly didn’t walk into her dayshift thinking she’d be hailed as a hero by the end of it.

Like Dill, she had more-of-the-same on her agenda that day.

That was until the 23-year-old noticed some sort of commotion in the Commercial Street parking lot outside where she was slinging coffees and filling orders.

A customer rushed in around 11 a.m. asking for a civic address to relay to 911 dispatchers. Dill was unconscious outside. He had fallen and hit his head against a car.

“I ran out right away just on instinct,” recalls Smith.

She recognized the man on the ground and noticed that the person attempting to administer CPR was struggling.

Adrenaline kicked in.

She stepped through the growing crowd to perform CPR, recalling lessons learned during First Aid courses she completed in cadets.

“The main thing was just trying to keep calm with the situation at hand, so I had the clear head and was able to keep on going,” she says.

“I was able to get him to take one breath… then it was like ‘OK, he’s breathing,’ but then he wasn’t again.”

Ron Dill of Canning is recovering in a Halifax hospital . (Contributed)
Ron Dill of Canning is recovering in a Halifax hospital . (Contributed)

Paramedics arrived a few minutes later and said her actions gave Dill a fighting chance. She stayed with him until the ambulance was rolling.

And then she went back inside to finish her shift.

Slinging coffees. Running the floor. Politely addressing customer complaints - and wondering what would become of Dill.

“The adrenaline, I guess, you could say kicked in and I just rolled with it. Afterwards, I just took a moment to myself out back. It’s not the easiest situation to be in,” she says.

“It’s not something you have to do every day at Tim Hortons.”

Smith was on the clock until 3 p.m. and heard from an impressed manager and store owner that afternoon.

As is often said by ordinary folks credited with extraordinary feats, she says she did what anyone in her position would do.

“It’s a pretty good feeling, just being there and able to help and now there’s a real good chance that he’s actually going to be able to make it and live longer for his family and friends,” she says.

Dill’s nephew, Arnold Rafuse, would later make a point of visiting the coffee shop to fill her in on his uncle’s condition.

“She gave him a new life,” says Rafuse.

Dill was placed in an induced coma for more than a week and eventually airlifted to a Halifax hospital, where he remains. His heart stopped once in Halifax, but Rafuse says doctors have a plan in place to address the complications associated with calcium build-up and blockages.

“They told him he’s a medical miracle,” the Kentville resident says.

Smith’s role in Dill’s second chance at life is not lost on his family.

“It’s one of those things that just gives you goosebumps, really,” he says, noting that his uncle now views each new day as a gift.

“I hope people are more aware of how valuable that CPR is.” 

Dill has a long way to go, but he’s moving forward with a new lease on life.

“It’s lucky that it happened at Tim Hortons, where there was people there. If it had of happened at home, he probably would have never made it… by the time the ambulance got back to Canning,” says Rafuse.

Progress is hard earned and gradual, but Dill has his sights set on eventually thanking the New Minas woman he now calls his guardian angel in person someday.

“The first thing he wants to do is visit Tim Hortons, not for the coffee. He wants to meet the girl that basically saved his life,” said Rafuse.

“This young girl is somebody’s hero.”

Hearing this, Smith blushes, offers Rafuse a warm grin and shrugs her shoulders.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” she says.

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