Yvonne Johnson was home in Silver Spring one afternoon last month when she got word her husband of 58 years had collapsed of a stroke. She ran across the street to a neighbor, who drove her to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Northwest Washington.
By the time she arrived at the Johns Hopkins-affiliated hospital, Ramon Johnson, 77, was nearly alert, and doctors said he had an excellent chance of making a strong recovery.
On Tuesday, doctors credited the firefighters and paramedics from Engine 31 and Ambulance 20 with quickly diagnosing Johnson and getting him to the hospital in time to receive a clot-busting drug that can help restore a patient’s motor functions.
“He will recover, and he will be restored,” Yvonne Johnson said during a ceremony in the hospital’s emergency ambulance bay. She said her husband, a former D.C. police officer who retired in the late 1970s, was partially paralyzed on his left side but had regained movement in all parts but his hand.
“It was mostly up there,” Johnson said, referring to God. But she quickly turned to the doctors, nurses, firefighters and paramedics and added, “Down here, too.”
After several years and a steady stream of news about delays in responding to emergency calls, some with dire consequences, the D.C. fire department has begun a new campaign to highlight successes. Last month, firefighters saved a man after he pulled up to a fire station in a car, honked his horn and then collapsed of a heart attack.
The May 26 treatment given to Ramon Johnson was particularly good, according to doctors at Sibley, and reflected new training in identifying stroke victims. D.C. Fire Sgt. William Harrison said he and his crew recognized the symptoms immediately.
Johnson, who runs a limousine and van service, was picking up a patient at a nursing home when he collapsed. Fire officials said it took 24 minutes from the time 911 was called to the time he was stabilized and had arrived at the hospital.
Jason Freeman, the medical director for Sibley’s stroke program, said Johnson suffered what is known as an acute ischemic stroke. One treatment is the clot buster tPA — a tissue plasminogen activator — which requires an IV and must be administered within 4½ hours of the stroke occurring. The quicker the drug can be given, the better the results.
Freeman said that only a small percentage of stroke patients get the drug in time and that to get it within one hour is rare.
Yvonne Johnson said she is grateful to firefighters and the staff at Sibley, noting that the time she spent at home waiting for her husband to recover “was the longest we’ve been separated” in their nearly six decades of marriage.
Referring to his stroke, she said, “It could have gone the other way.”