Quinten Randolph

When the stroke code is called into his station, Fire Chief Quinten Randolph will be watching to make sure his crew gets their part just right. Randolph knows firsthand the importance of a stroke-ready system – it saved his own life two years ago.

While sure to bring back a lot of memories for Randolph, 56, the code is part of a simulation event on Thursday with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association to increase public knowledge around stroke treatment. Similar events are taking place across the country in May for American Stroke Month.

The St. Louis drill begins with a 911 call from a public location where spectators track the time from the onset of stroke symptoms to the moment the patient arrives at the hospital. There physicians follow guidelines-based evaluation and treatment protocol.

The faster a patient receives medical treatment, the better the chance of recovery.

“What is most important for any stroke victim is time,” said Jacqueline Randolph, the chief’s wife and a veteran paramedic who quickly recognized her husband was having a stroke. “You can’t mess around with time. I know that’s what contributed to Quinten’s success in being able to get back to work and a lot of the normal functions he was able to restore.”

Quinten had met some friends for drinks on Jan. 18, 2015, and didn’t feel right on the way home. He was nauseated and had to pull over to throw up. He then called his wife, who stayed on the phone with him for the remainder of his drive. The two hung up as he pulled into their subdivision.

“As soon as I walked through my front door, I collapsed. I hit the floor,” he said.

A few minutes later, he heard his wife calling him from the second floor. When she came downstairs, she found him lying on his back, speaking clearly, but confused and unable to move the left side of his body.

“He goes, ‘Hey, is that my arm laying there?” Jacqueline recalled.

She immediately asked her husband to squeeze her fingers with both hands. He could only hold on with his right. His wife then lifted up his right arm and let it go. As it flopped to the ground, Jacqueline immediately stepped over her husband to get to the phone and call 911.

An ambulance arrived and took Quinten to the nearby hospital, where he was quickly evaluated and started on IV r-tPA alteplase, medication commonly used to treat clot-caused strokes. He was then taken by helicopter to a larger hospital nearby.

Quinten spent a month in the hospital, undergoing rehabilitation. He returned to work several months later, although he still felt weakness on the left side of his body.

Today, he has regained much of his original strength and considers himself to have “almost 85, 90 percent” of the quality of life he had before his stroke.

While he normally shies away from publicly sharing personal stories, he said this one is different because of the lessons that can help educate the community.

Quinten said he hopes Thursday’s drill will teach people the common signs of a stroke and emphasize the need to act urgently.

“Just like if you think somebody’s having a heart attack, the first thing you think is, ‘Call 911,’” he said. “But people who think somebody is having a stroke will instead call someone and say, ‘Can you come over and check out Uncle Bob? I think he may be having a stroke.’ You hear those stories.”

Jacqueline said she hopes the drill, and her husband’s story, will let people know that strokes can happen to anyone.

“We need to help the community and people understand that this doesn’t have to be somebody who is older than the age of 60 or 70,” she said. “I certainly didn’t think that a healthy firefighter, who can bench-press 300 pounds, would be a candidate for stroke.”

Jacqueline said people should not take chances when wondering whether a friend or loved one is suffering a stroke.

“We need to convey the message of quick recognition. Time is of essence,” she said. “It’s just better to be safe than sorry.”