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How One Phone Call Led to a Summer Full of Cape May Oceanside Strolls

Dr. Maureen Darwal is a Neurosurgeon at Atlanticare.

Dr. Maureen Darwal is a Neurosurgeon at Atlanticare.

By Maureen Darwal, D.O., AtlantiCare Neurosurgeon, and Edward Hamaty, Jr., D.O., medical director, Neurocritical Care and co-medical director, Stroke Program, AtlantiCare

Through their many walks along the beach, Eileen and Ed Martini — residents of Lower Township —likely looked out over the ocean to observe the occasional plane or helicopter above. We doubt, though, the thought crossed their minds that they might one day be a passenger in one. But that was recent reality for Ed, and it all started with an astute observation followed by quick action on Eileen’s part.
After Ed and Eileen said good morning, Eileen left for a moment only to return to find Ed unresponsive with no control over his movements. She was pretty sure he was having a stroke and immediately called 9-1-1.
AtlantiCare EMS paramedics arrived quickly, observed Ed, and began treatment.
JeffSTAT 4, AtlantiCare’s helicopter in partnership with Jefferson University Hospital, transported Ed from Lower Township to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center (ARMC) Atlantic City Campus, home of our Neuroscience’s Institute—the only comprehensive stroke and level II trauma centers in southeastern New Jersey.
When Ed arrived at AtlantiCare protocol fueled by steadfast observance to the rule that “time is brain” began:
· Nurse coordinators received and prepared Ed for assessment.
· Using the most advanced technologies available today, our comprehensive stroke team found blockages in three of Ed’s four arteries that “feed the brain.”
· We then took him to our interventional radiology suite. There, using a procedure called a mechanical thrombectomy, we inserted a tiny catheter up into Ed’s brain to locate and remove the clot to restore blood flow to the rest of his brain.
· Confident the clot was cleared, we transferred Ed to our Neurocritical Care intensive care unit (ICU).
Very soon after the procedure, Ed woke up. Two hours later, we removed his breathing tube and his prognosis was positive. Ed tells us that he felt like his stroke never happened. As he rested under observation in the ICU, just hours after we removed his blockage, he told his family he was fine and ready to go home.
A stroke victim can lose approximately 2 million neurons per minute due to the brain being deprived of oxygen. This is why at AtlantiCare’s Neurosciences Institute we are driven by the concept of “time is brain.” This motivates every professional involved in the care of a stroke patient. This includes the AtlantiCare Emergency Medical Services team who are often the first point of contact with a stroke patient. It also includes specialists like the two of us who are responsible for treating stroke patients.
It’s imperative we all work together, because the faster we can stop that stroke, the better the chance of not only our patient’s survival, but also for their quality of life.
There is one more essential component to our ability to achieve the best possible outcomes for stroke patients—that someone observing a person potentially having a stroke calls 9-1-1 immediately. “Time is brain” becomes severely compromised if there’s a delay in EMS and neurocritical specialists being able to administer care.
In Ed’s case, his wife Eileen made that critical first call that started it all. Eileen’s fast action in calling 9-1-1 was followed by the care our EMS team provided Ed at the scene and in transit, and the information they relayed to us while we prepared for Ed’s arrival at ARMC.
These things, coupled with our ability to airlift Ed from Lower Township to our Neurosciences Institute in Atlantic City, made a life-saving difference for him. Ed experienced a basilar artery occlusion, a condition for which fewer than 35% of patients have good functional outcomes.
Ed was discharged and headed home to everyday living after just four days, an incredibly short time for someone with basilar artery occlusion. This outcome resulted from our experience and capabilities, our advanced technology and resources, and, certainly, the speed at which Ed received care.
Ed’s and Eileen’s, and other patients’ stories make us feel extremely fortunate to be able to work where we do and provide the comprehensive services that distinguish ARMC City Campus—a recipient of the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Comprehensive Stroke Center Certification—from others.
The certification acknowledges the extensive expertise of our Acute Stroke Team and our clinical colleagues who collaborate with them.
Dedicated to excellence and providing comprehensive care, our team is there every step of the way with stroke patients—from the scene of the stroke to well beyond their discharge from the hospital.
It’s so important for a patient to get care at a comprehensive stroke center. We encourage you to remember Ed and Eileen’s story, and the many beautiful strolls on the beach—plus so much more—that lie ahead of them because of it. If you think someone is having a stroke, please call 9-1-1.
For more information visit AtlantiCare.org/stroke.

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