Transforming stroke care for regional and rural Victorians
Stephen Fullarton was enjoying an afternoon surf in June 2021 when he suffered a massive stroke.
The 69-year-old Phillip Island local found himself under the water paralysed and sinking.
“I can remember being under the water. It was quite a big swell that day,” he said.
Fortunately, another local surfer noticed Mr Fullarton being dragged under water and recognised the signs of a stroke. The surfer helped Mr Fullarton back to shore and called Triple Zero (000)..
Mr Fullarton was taken to Wonthaggi Hospital where he underwent a Victoria Stroke Telemedicine (VST) consultation. Ambulance Victoria’s VST uses telehealth to connect patients and treating clinicians with a network of neurologists and stroke specialists that are able to provide diagnosis and advice on treatment.
Following the consultation Mr Fullarton was flown by air ambulance to The Alfred Hospital to be treated for haemorrhagic stroke (bleeding into the brain).
Mr Fullarton said his experience was extraordinary.
“Everything lined up for me, from being spotted in the water by the locals to how quickly paramedics got me up the cliffs and to hospital where I was connected to the stroke specialists,” he said.
“I was on my way to The Alfred in what seemed like no time at all. It’s just amazing.”
Ambulance Victoria Director Stroke Services Professor Chris Bladin said Mr Fullarton’s case demonstrates how VST is transforming stroke care for regional and rural Victorians.
“The outcomes for patients treated through VST are equivalent to those achieved when patients present at hospital in metropolitan Melbourne,” Prof. Bladin said.
“Through VST, we are giving stroke patients the best chance of making a good recovery by getting them the best care faster, no matter where they live”
Mr Fullarton was able to walk within days of starting rehabilitation and has regained his speech.