MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – Atlantic Health System (AHS) has taken the lead providing essential stroke training to Morris County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Personnel, helping first responders to recognize the signs of stroke, which is resulting in better outcomes for victims and even saving lives.
Updates about the program successes were provided at a meeting of the Morris County Board of County Commissioners this week by Gayle Walker-Cillo, MSN/Ed, RN, CEN, ASC-BC, SCRN, FAEN, Stroke Program Manager for AHS and Jeffrey Paul, Director of the Morris County OEM and the Morris County EMS Coordinator.
“There are two components of county services related to what’s happening at the hospital: The Morris County Communications/911 Center that is taking the Emergency 911 calls has a very significant stroke diagnostic tool, and the county regional EMS system that is supporting volunteer and professional EMS efforts throughout the county by working together to get an ambulance to a patient as quickly as possible,” Paul said.
“Time is what this is all about. Gayle and the Atlantic Health System have made an investment and a commitment to educate EMS. Some of the successes at the hospital are happening because EMS is better equipped to recognize the symptoms of strokes and getting victims to the right hospital, and also because the Morris County Communications Stroke Diagnostic tool provides the first responders with critical data that allows the entire patient picture to be better understood,” Paul said.
A stroke, sometimes referred to as a “brain attack,” is a condition where blood flow is blocked to a part of the brain, resulting in cell death due to lack of oxygen. If enough brain cells are destroyed, the patient may experience long-term side effects, such as loss of memory and muscle control. When someone is experiencing a stroke, every second counts.
“If you don’t have a very robust educational model and make sure that every single volunteer and professional EMS agency understands and can recognize a stroke, then we are doing a disservice to our community. We’re trying to partner with every single squad for this essential life-saving training,” Walker-Cillo said.
It is important to know the sudden signs of a stroke and call 911. Those signs can be broken down by the phrase “BE FAST”:
- B – Balance Difficulty
- E – Eyesight Changes
- F – Facial Droop
- A – Arm Weakness
- S – Speech Difficulty
- T – Time to Call 911
The comprehensive stroke center training from AHS enabled a New Jersey State Trooper to recognize that a motorist who was driving erratically was displaying signs of having a stroke. The male driver, whose vehicle was weaving and hitting a guardrail, could have mistakenly been perceived of having behaviors indicative of drunk driving.
When an EMS team from Montville Township arrived on scene, the first aid members confirmed that the man was in fact having a stroke and they did not delay, communicated their findings to the Morristown Medical Center and transported the patient to the hospital.
The motorist survived and walked out of the Intensive Care Unit one day later.
“The state trooper and EMS saved this man’s life. The EMS team had attended an AHS EMS educational training event only a month earlier,” Walker-Cillo said.
The Comprehensive Stroke Center at Morristown Medical Center is one of two state-designated stroke centers in the region, anchoring a network of more than a dozen Primary Stroke Center hospitals in Northwestern New Jersey, including Saint Clare’s Dover Hospital, Saint Clare’s Denville Hospital, Chilton Medical Center, Hackettstown Medical Center and Newton Medical Center. Atlantic Health System provides the most comprehensive stroke services in the region — from emergency care to rehabilitation and support.
“It’s important that high-end training is provided through people like Gayle and the Atlantic Health System to identify what’s occurring with a patient and being timely about the delivery of the patient to the right spot,” Paul said.
Commissioner Director John Krickus extends his thanks to Trish O’Keefe, PhD, RN, Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive, Atlantic Health System, and President, Morristown Medical Center, for sending Gayle Walker-Cillo to present to the Commissioner Board on this very serious topic.
“It was a pleasure to learn about of all the successes that both Atlantic Health and our EMS community are having in this area,” Krickus said.