It All Came Together: Stroke Victim Thanks DC Fire EMS, MedStar Georgetown for Saving His Life


May is National Stroke Awareness Month. The following story comes from MedStar Georgetown University Hospital — and tells how all elements of first responders and healthcare came together in a timely, coordinated manner to save a life.

When Harun Addrey, age 70, reported for work as a parking area security guard at Trader Joe’s on Wisconsin Avenue the morning of February 5, 2021, he started experiencing facial paralysis and other stroke symptoms but did not recognize what was happening – and then it was almost too late. When he collapsed and good Samaritans came to his rescue by calling 911, the results of a partnership between MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and D.C. Fire and EMS saved his life.

“The EMS first responders immediately recognized that Mr. Addrey was experiencing a stroke and called our team to be on alert for his arrival,” said Dr. Andrew Stemer, Director, Comprehensive Stroke Center and Regional Director, Tele-stroke, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “Time is brain when someone is experiencing a stroke, so by the first responders having the education and training though our partnership, they recognized quickly that Mr. Addrey was experiencing a stroke, notified us, and we were ready when he arrived to administer the highest level stroke care to help ensure the best possible outcome.” 

While the effects of stroke have the potential to be devastating, life-long disability or death is no longer a given due to new procedures and treatments found at Comprehensive Stroke Centers, including urgent care; the latest technologies for diagnostics and treatment, including removing the clot causing the stroke; and cutting-edge clinical trials and advanced stroke-specific rehabilitation.

Couple this world class care with the education and training provided to DC Fire and EMS by the DC Stroke Collaborative, of which MedStar Georgetown and MedStar Washington Hospital Center are both leading members, and D.C. residents experiencing stroke have an increased opportunity for both survival and the best possible outcomes from a multi-disciplinary team of stroke care experts.

“The DC Fire and EMS Department works with the DC Stroke Collaborative —  made up of the areas’ leading hospital stroke centers and other partners —  to ensure the highest level of education and training for pre-hospital stroke screening,” said DC Fire and EMS Medical Director Dr. Robert Holman. “We focus on identifying large vessel occlusion (LVO) strokes because they can lead to dramatic long-term disability. The good news is that these patients can now be treated quickly at Comprehensive Stroke Centers if we do our part in screening the patient and notifying the emergency department ahead of time.”

The morning of Feb. 5 the partnership paid off as DC Fire and EMS Paramedic Kenneth Lyons and EMT Yvette Reid correctly identified that Addrey was having an LVO stroke and called MedStar Georgetown University Hospital en route so that their expert stroke team could be ready to remove the clot from his brain.

“It’s because of this training partnership and MedStar Georgetown’s stroke care expertise that Mr. Addrey has recovered from a potentially devastating stroke,” Holman said.

At an event reuniting Addrey with those who saved his life, he said, “I am forever grateful to the people who called 911 and to the exceptionally trained EMS responders and stroke team at MedStar Georgetown for saving my life. Like many people, I did not recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke, so I am truly thankful for the timely, expert care that made it possible for me to be here today to thank them all.” 

That level of care is what has earned MedStar Georgetown the Comprehensive Stroke Center designation by The Joint Commission, and American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite Plus Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. MedStar Georgetown earned these recognitions by meeting specific quality achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients at the evidence based highest level of care for a designated period of time. These measures include evaluation of the proper use of medications and other stroke treatments aligned with the most current evidence-based guidelines with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients. Before discharge, stroke patients also receive education on managing their health, get a follow-up visit scheduled, as well as other care transition interventions including stroke specific physical therapy.

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May is National Stroke Awareness Month, a time designated to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke, how to prevent stroke, and what to do if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a stroke. When it comes to stroke, time is brain!

Signs and symptoms of a stroke:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.

Act fast! Call 9-1-1 right away if you or someone else has any of these symptoms.

What should you do?

The stroke treatments that work best are available only if the stroke is recognized and diagnosed within 3 hours of the first symptoms. To BEFAST can help stroke patients get the care they need to survive and reduce damage to the brain.

If you think someone may be having a stroke, B.E.F.A.S.T. and do the following simple test:

B – Balance – if they can stand, check their balance

E – Eyes – sudden change in vision, loss of vision or blurry vision

F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop

A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward

S—Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange

T—Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.

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