In charge: The untold stories of WKU resident assistants

Some of the unsung heroes of WKU housing are the hard-working, ever-vigilant resident assistants. Because they work around the clock, they often have some memorable stories to share. Whether the stories are funny, awkward or nightmare-ish, these three RAs — Theresa Whelan, Jeffrey Silvers and Olivia Santangelo — have lived them.

Nightmare on Gilbert third-floor

A few years ago, Walton senior Theresa Whelan was doing her rounds in Gilbert Hall when she decided to check the third-floor kitchen. She checked to make sure the stove was off, letting the door close shut behind her with a thud. Once she had confirmed that the stove was off and all was well, she turned back to leave.

Only she couldn’t. Whelan couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the door, without a doorknob. 

She tried to open the door by pulling on it. That didn’t work. Then she shouted, thinking maybe one of her residents would hear her and rush to her aid. They didn’t. Finally, Whelan remembered that she had her phone with her and texted one of her residents, who came to her aid. She opened the door from the outside, freeing Whelan.

However, before Whelan could ask her savior if she knew where the doorknob was, another resident ran down the hall toward them, hand raised high in the air, the doorknob held in her fist.

“It was a confusing night,” Whelan said, recounting the story. “But be careful. I heard that that doorknob still falls off even to this day.”

Strange noises and a misunderstanding

Clarksville, Tennesee junior Jeffrey Silvers recalled an evening that he thought was just like any other. He was walking up and down his hall in Barnes-Campbell Hall when he heard strange noises coming from the community bathroom. He could see under one of the stalls that there was one person on their hands and knees and a pair of shoes pointing the opposite direction.

Confused, Silvers called for the two people to come out, but when the stall opened, there was only one, very sick, very embarrassed man.

“As it turns out, he was in there alone throwing up, and the shoes were his,” Silvers said. “He had removed them because he had thrown up on them.”

Silvers explained what he had thought was going on to the man from the bathroom stall, and they both had a laugh about it. Silvers said he sometimes still wonders if that man ever got the smell out of his shoes.

Bonding in the ER

A few years ago, Villa Hills senior Olivia Santangelo was out with some other RAs on a Thursday night. At around 1:30 a.m., she got a call from a panicked resident. The resident told Santangelo that her friend, another of Santangelo’s residents, was having trouble breathing and was starting to lose consciousness. 

Santangelo also began to panic, so her fellow RA rushed her back to campus. After quickly parking near the Pearce Ford Tower courtyard, they ran over to find the two residents.

Santangelo asked every question that was on her mind, trying to understand the situation. The residents said they had been at a party but hadn’t been drinking. The resident in distress had been feeling dehydrated and couldn’t find water. 

“She couldn’t speak more than half a word at this point,” Santangelo said. “She looked like she was about to pass out, wobbling back-and-forth and unable to focus on anything, when sure enough she drops like a stone.”

Luckily for the resident, the other RA was standing right behind her and caught her before she hit the ground. Amidst the chaos, Santangelo called the campus police and explained the situation while the other RA helped the resident to the ground.

As a crowd began to form, Santangelo ordered another resident to keep them moving. About half of the girls from her floor had formed a protective circle around the three of them.

When the paramedics arrived, they put the resident on a stretcher and took her to the hospital, with Santangelo and three of her residents following them there.

“It was a busy night, apparently, and the staff was stretched thin,” Santangelo said. “We spent a solid hour and a half in the waiting room before they would allow us to go back and see her.” 

Santangelo’s resident had suffered a heat stroke and was severely dehydrated, but she eventually awoke  responsive and smiling. They were told that the resident could leave once she had gone through her whole bag of fluids. 

The group spent the next few hours with her, wrapped in med-blankets, laughing, sharing stories and eating chocolate pudding. 

“It’s weird how something so scary could have turned into one of the best bonding sessions I have ever had with residents, but there it is,” Santangelo said.

Around 6:15 a.m., as Santangelo and her three residents said goodbye, she pulled the nurse aside and asked if she could get doctor’s notes for her residents, excusing them all from class. They had all had a long, emotional night, and needed to get some sleep, she explained. 

“She obliged, and with notes in hand, we piled into one of my resident’s cars, made a detour at a McDonald’s for some breakfast and shuffled back into the residence hall,” Santangelo said.

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