Family, friends, and co-workers said goodbye to a long-time Tulsa paramedic Tuesday, after she died from COVID-19 complications.
Tulsa paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters left EMSA headquarters with lights and sirens, in Debbie Rusher's honor.
EMS workers from Pawhuska, along with Muskogee and Creek counties showed their support too. From Tulsa, the group made their way to Okmulgee for her funeral.
After nearly 22 years of service, an EMSA spokesperson said it is “incredibly difficult” to lose someone with Rusher’s wealth of knowledge, and her willingness to share that knowledge with others.
"For me to be here to just show her a little bit of how much I loved her was so important,” Mikka House-Moore said.
House-Moore is a part-time EMSA paramedic and dispatcher. She is also an EMS instructor at Tulsa Tech, and brought her class to Tuesday’s procession.
House-Moore said Rusher took her under her wing when House-Moore first started learning the job.
"Debbie was a tough lady. I mean, I'll be real. She was stern when she needed to be, but she would laugh with you when she wanted you to laugh,” House-Moore said.
EMSA spokesperson Adam Paluka said Rusher was also a supportive mentor and friend to many. She worked EMSA for nearly 22 years, a long time for a job where Paluka said burnout is common.
"She was a quiet force. She wasn't the loudest person in the room. She wasn't the most boisterous,” Paluka said. “But when she spoke, you listened. And I think that, you know, we will really miss her voice."
Paluka said while it is bittersweet, he has noticed since Rusher’s death more Tulsa paramedics and EMTs are signing up to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
"I think that's a great way to honor her and carry her legacy,” he said.
House-Moore said the lessons Debbie taught her about work and life will always be remembered.
"The most important thing that I learned from her was just to always be yourself and always do your best,” she said.
EMSA paramedics and EMTs from Oklahoma City came to Tulsa on Tuesday to help cover any emergencies, so Tulsa employees could attend the procession and funeral.