MORRISTOWN, NJ (Morris County) – Atlantic Health System honored a New Jersey State Trooper and members of the Montville Township First Aid Squad on Tuesday as the first responders reunited with the man whose life they saved a year earlier when he suffered a stroke while driving along a busy highway.
Representatives of Morristown Medical Center’s Stroke Program and Emergency Department teams, as well as Atlantic Mobile Health, which includes Atlantic Ambulance, presented state trooper Kristian Bautista and Montville EMTs Jaclyn D’Amico and James High with the “Golden Brain” Award.
The award refers to the “golden hours” in which it is crucial for stroke patients to receive care in order to save lives or preserve neurological function.
Bautista, D’Amico and High are credited with saving the life of Warren Hartwick, who suffered a stroke while driving a box truck on Route 287 on May 9, 2022.
Hartwick, of Carlstadt, remembers feeling fine as he began his daily deliveries for a garage door distributor that morning. That was until he was on the highway between his first and second stops.
“I remember seeing a warning light on the dashboard and I thought something was wrong with the truck,” Hartwick recalled.
Bautista witnessed Hartwick’s box truck weaving side to side on a stretch of Route 287 and managed to guide the truck to the highway’s shoulder in Montville Township.
“I’m thankful that I was in the right place, at the right time, but I know that any other trooper would have responded the same way,” Bautista said. “It was great to see Mr. Hartwick doing so well and I wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
Hartwick remembers Bautista approaching and trying to speak to him. “I was trying to reach for the key, and I just remember reaching into air,” Hartwick recounted.
In trying to speak to Hartwick, Bautista determined Hartwick appeared to have stroke-like symptoms, and immediately requested an ambulance. The Montville Township First Aid Squad was closest to the site, and EMTs D’Amico and High responded quickly to the scene.
As luck would have it, members of the squad had recently attended a stroke education session provided by Morristown Medical Center’s Stroke Program, Sameth Emergency Department and Atlantic Training Center as part of its EMS community outreach. In fact, it had been the first session since the program resumed after going on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have been in EMS since 1974, and it amazes me to see how far we have come with stroke care,” High said. “The training offered by Atlantic Health has bridged the gap between first responders and the emergency room. We can now offer top notch, seamless stroke care from the scene all the way through definitive care at the hospital.”
Using their training, the EMTs quickly assessed Hartwick’s symptoms, confirming what Trooper Bautista suspected and swiftly transported the patient to Morristown Medical Center where the stroke team – which includes neurologists, neurosurgeons, the emergency department team, members of radiology, pharmacy, endovascular operating rooms and anesthesia – was standing by to care for him upon arrival.
“We are proud of the strong relationship that we have with the volunteer and paid EMS agencies throughout northern New Jersey,” said John DaSilva, emergency support supervisor for the Emergency Department at Morristown Medical Center. “The stroke education program for first responders was created by the Stroke Program and Atlantic Training Center for events just like this, when quick decision-making saves lives and brain.”
“Time is brain, and the seamless connection from EMT first responders to the emergency department team, guided by the stroke education they received just a month earlier, led to a great outcome in this case,” said Gayle Walker-Cillo, stroke program manager for Morristown Medical Center.
“The rapid recognition and notification of the stroke teams by Trooper Bautista, Ms. D’Amico and Mr. High allowed us to perform the quick interventions the patient needed,” said Connie Mastrangelo, stroke program manager for Morristown Medical Center.
Once at Morristown Medical Center, Hartwick was initially treated with Thrombolytic, a clot-busting medication, by the Morristown Medical Center stroke team led by stroke director Stuart Fox, MD, followed by a thrombectomy (a procedure to remove the clot from the brain) by endovascular neurosurgery director Ronald Benitez, MD.
“As leaders in the field of neuroscience, Atlantic Health System has a variety of treatment methods at its disposal to give patients the best chance at not only survival, but recovery,” said Dr. Benitez. “In this case, we were able to quickly treat this patient with expert care and see him regain function almost immediately.”
Thanks to the quick actions of the first responders and the expert care he received at Morristown Medical Center, Hartwick was on his feet the next day, and has since regained all his function. A year later, he has been able to resume work in a different role at his company.
“I would just like to give my deepest gratitude to everyone who was involved that day to Trooper Bautista to the EMTs, to everyone here at Morristown Medical, the doctors, the surgeon and nurses,” Hartwick said. “It was truly amazing.”