Local woman recalls 10 days with Ronald Reagan

Robyn Ringler can remember 10 days in 1981 as vividly as if it were yesterday. The Ballston Lake resident, then 24, was dealt perhaps one of her most challenging cases as an assistant head nurse, when then-President Ronald Reagan became her patient after the March 30 attempt on his life.

The thing I remember most is the image of the double doors bursting open and through it came the stretcher with this very recognizable face on it, his face still covered by an oxygen mask and hovered over his body was Nancy Reagan, said Ringler. "He was surrounded by nurses, doctors, secret service and I helped them settle him into the room."

Ringler just happened to work on the floor in George Washington University Hospital with the only room specifically designed to accommodate the President of the United States.

"We had the only room that had bulletproof windows and a flat roof outside of it that was perfect for a SWAT team," said Ringler. "When it was originally built they thought about the idea that a president might come there."

For the next 10 days, Ringler was Reagan's night nurse. She said the first two days were nerve-wracking, and contrary to media reports claiming the injured President was doing fine, Ringler said that couldn't be farther from the truth.

"Those first two night I left feeling like I might never see him again. His face had the gray pallor of a dying man and he was struggling to breathe, spiked a high fever and it looked pretty grim," said Ringler. "The Washington Post said he was doing fine and everything was going well and that's the first time I learned you can't always believe what you read."

Soon, though, Reagan began to improve with constant monitoring of his blood pressure, temperature, pulse, respiration rate and chest physical therapy to clear his lungs.

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