Yvonne Johnson will never forget the call.
"Mom...Dad has fallen at the senior citizen home and they're taken him to Sibley!"
Quickly, she ran to a neighbor, who gave her a ride from her home in Silver Spring, to Sibley Memorial Hospital. Her husband of 58 years, Ramon, collapsed while on the job. The retired D.C. police officer now runs a transportation company, and had signed in clients at a senior center when he collapsed.
“Mr. [Johnson] was on the ground, unable to communicate. That’s a problem with his speech,” said Dr. Jason Freeman, who treated Mr. Johnson at Sibley.
Speech issues are a telltale sign of stroke. The American Stroke Association has promoted the acronym of “FAST” to identify the signs of a stroke: face, arm, speech, and time, referring to the promptness of medical treatment.
In this case, it was caused by a blockage in Mr. Johnson’s brain. Quick thinking by those around Mr. Johnson as he was stricken, quite simply, saved his life.
“To get someone in the field, fall down, call 911, get them to the hospital in less than an hour, and then treat them with this clot busting medication is a phenomenal thing,” said Dr. Freeman.
The clot-busting medication is better known as a TPA, or tissue plasminogen activator. When delivered within four hours of the onset of a stroke, a TPA injection can break down blood clots and reduce the long-term effects of a stroke.
The story of Mr. Johnson caught the attention of Fox 5 anchor Jim Lokay, whose family was forever changed by a stroke four years ago.
“The TPA wasn’t an option for my dad because it wasn’t a stroke caused by a blockage,” said Lokay. “But just like Mr. Johnson, he was at work when he had his stroke. And because he was around a co-worker who knew the signs of a stroke, they were able to rush him to the hospital quickly and save his life.”
Mr. Johnson is now undergoing treatment and intensive therapy, but doctors expect him to make a full recovery.
Meantime, DC Fire and EMS presented members of Paramedic Engine 31 and Ambulance 20 with certificates of appreciation for their quick action.
Mrs. Johnson calls it a true team effort.
"Mostly from above, but truly from here!"