‘From vacation mode to action mode’: Annapolis firefighter, nurse couple helped victim of Ocean City shark bite

An Annapolis firefighter and his wife, a registered nurse, were the first to provide medical aid to a 12-year-old girl who suffered injuries from a shark bite in Ocean City Monday.

Lt. Doug Rathell, a 15-year veteran of the Annapolis Fire Department who is also a paramedic, and his wife Brooke, a registered nurse for 14 years, were enjoying a two-week vacation with their three children at the 119th Street Beach.


Suddenly the Arnold couple were called into action when a woman approached a nearby lifeguard asking for help. The woman’s daughter, Jordan Prushinski, of Pennsylvania, had been wading in knee-deep water when she returned to the beach with blood streaming down her leg.

“Brooke jumped out of her chair and I was playing ball with my son and we booked it down the shore to where they were,” Rathell said. “We switched from vacation mode to action mode just like that.”


Brooke Rathell cleaned and bandaged the wounds while her husband held a towel between Prushinski’s face and her leg, a tactic to distract her from looking at the wound, they said.

“My focus was really just to allay Jordan’s fears and answer any questions (to) give her an expectation of what it’ll look like when she got to the hospital,” Brooke Rathell said. “She was a rock star. She wasn’t screaming frantically; she was tearful and that was about it.”

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After her leg was bandaged, the Rathells helped direct the girl’s family to Atlantic General Hospital where Prushinski ended up needing 42 stitches from 20 cuts, according to an Associated Press report.

Later Prushinski told a Pennsylvania news station, “I didn’t really realize what was going on until I was on the beach and I was bleeding everywhere.”

On Thursday, the Ocean City Beach Patrol confirmed it was indeed a shark that bit Prushinski, according to local news reports. The bite matched a small sandbar shark, a species native to the area.

The Rathells had been staying at 118th Street, one street away from the 119th Street beach where the incident occurred. On Thursday, they happened to bump into Prushinski and her family and said they were in good spirits.

“I’m glad we were there and I’m glad we were able to help out,” Doug Rathell said.

Rathell announced he is running to represent Annapolis in the Maryland House of Delegates in 2022.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.