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‘Golden’ moment: State Trooper, Montville EMTs honored for quick action that saved stroke patient

May 26, 2023

MORRISTOWN, NJ - MAY 23, 2023 – Atlantic Health System honored a New Jersey State Trooper and members of the Montville Township First Aid Squad on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, 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.

“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,” said Trooper Bautista.  “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.”

About Atlantic Health System

Atlantic Health System is at the forefront of medicine, setting standards for quality health care in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the New York metropolitan area. Powered by a workforce of 19,000 team members and 5,440 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities, Atlantic Health System serves more than half of the state of New Jersey including 12 counties and 6.2 million people. The not-for-profit system offers more than 400 sites of care, including its seven hospitals: Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, NJ, Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ, Newton Medical Center in Newton, NJ, Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, NJ, Hackettstown Medical Center in Hackettstown, NJ, Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, NJ, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute in Madison, NJ and through its partnership with CentraState Healthcare System in Freehold, NJ.

The system includes Atlantic Medical Group, part of a physician enterprise that makes up one of the largest multispecialty practices in New Jersey with more than 1,600 physicians and advance practice providers. Joined with Atlantic Accountable Care Organization and Optimus Healthcare Partners they form part of Atlantic Alliance, a Clinically Integrated Network of more than 2,500 health care providers throughout northern and central NJ.

Atlantic Health System provides care for the full continuum of health care needs through 24 urgent care centers, Atlantic Visiting Nurse and Atlantic Anywhere Virtual Visits. Facilitating the connection between these services on both land and air is the transportation fleet of Atlantic Mobile Health.

Atlantic Health System leads the Healthcare Transformation Consortium, a partnership of six regional hospitals and health systems dedicated to improving access and affordability and is a founding member of the PIER Consortium – Partners in Innovation, Education, and Research – a streamlined clinical trial system that will expand access to groundbreaking research across five health systems in the region.

Atlantic Health System has a medical school affiliation with Thomas Jefferson University and is home to the regional campus of the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Morristown and Overlook Medical Centers and is the official health care partner of the New York Jets.