South Metro Fire Rescue meets with Sedgwick team in front of fire engine

Recognizing Stroke Signs, South Metro Fire Rescue Saves One of Our Own

Member Spotlight – South Metro Fire Rescue

Last April, Cindy Tucker came in for what she thought was a normal day of work at Sedgwick Claims Management Services. She started to gather her things to leave for a meeting with the Colorado Self-Insurers Association, but before she left, Cindy let her co-worker, Beth Young, know that she’d be back later. Except, what she had told Beth did not make any sense.

“Cindy, you are talking gibberish, I can’t understand a thing you just said,” Beth had told her, adding that, “your face is drooping.”

Cindy had thought her co-worker was joking. But as Cindy struggled to pick up her purse to leave, she decided to sit down while Beth called 911 and waited for paramedics to arrive. South Metro Fire Rescue, a CSD Pool member, arrived quickly on scene. Little did the paramedics know, they would be helping save someone from our own claims department.

The Response

According to Chris Macklin, the Health and Wellness Officer for South Metro Fire Rescue, Medic 33 and Ladder 32 were dispatched to respond to a stroke at 7400 E. Orchard Road. Ladder 32 was dispatched at 11:04 am and arrived four minutes later. Medic 33 was dispatched at 11:03 am, arrived on scene at 11:10 am, and made it to Sky Ridge Hospital by 11:25 am. These remarkable response times are what made the different as to why Cindy was able to survive her stroke.

In fact, the crew received a recognition award from the hospital for this call having been their quickest call of 2023. But an award this important doesn’t come without exceptional coordination and communication.

Cindy Tucker with South Metro Fire Rescue and Sky Ridge Hospital Employees after receiving an award

“Communication is the single most important piece of our emergency response and on scene coordination whether a fire or medical emergency,” Chris says. “The attending paramedic is normally assessing patient condition then directing the rest of the team on scene in delivering care to the patient. Team members may be preemptively providing care and ensuring they are in coordination with the paramedic’s assessment. The first arriving unit ahead of the medic must collect and report their findings to the paramedic to aid in their determination of care and transport.”

Discussing the dynamics of emergency response coordination, Chris emphasizes the pivotal role of communication in optimizing patient care.

“I would compare a medical scene to a symphony,” Chris comments. “The attending paramedic filling the role of the conductor while the rest of the team is the orchestra, they know their specific parts or rather roles and responsibilities. Together, their internal communication and coordination produces a cohesive movement in providing care, evacuation from the scene to the Medic unit and transport of the patient to the hospital.”

Firefighters and medics also face many challenges that can depend on a variety of factors that are difficult to predict. Response time is influenced by time of day, traffic, location of incident, access to the patient, and even whether the event was witnessed or not.

“If there are not witnesses to critically ill or injured patients, firefighters and paramedics must rely on objective physical findings without the ability to obtain past medical history or understanding the mechanism of the injury,” Chris says.
Beyond that, language barriers, disruptive or distracting people on-scene, and bad information provided to dispatch can further complicate their efforts in locating and determining the type of emergency. Response to violent scenes are particularly tricky, as it takes extra time to coordinate with local police who aid in ensuring the responders’ safety.

Recognizing a Stroke

While this may have been a normal day on the job for South Metro Fire Rescue, it’s not something you see every day for the average white-collar worker. This is why it is good to be prepared and know the signs of a stroke.

A stroke is a life-threatening condition that happens when part of your brain doesn’t have enough blood flow. This most commonly happens because of a blocked artery or bleeding in your brain. Without a steady supply of blood, the brain cells in that area start to die from a lack of oxygen. (Stroke: What It Is, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Types (

South Metro Fire Rescue is specifically trained to recognize and respond effectively to stroke symptoms through regular and reoccurring continuing education from the EMS Bureau and Medical Director. They achieve this by training through platforms like Vector Solutions, third party quality assurance, and participating in South Metro Fire Rescue’s own Field Training Education Program for all Paramedics.

When responding to this type of call, responders have a set of protocols to follow, which includes determining the appropriate destination and alerting the receiving hospital they are transporting a stroke victim. This early activation allows the hospital to anticipate that a critical patient is in transport and needs rapid care due to a stroke. Additionally, responders will provide IVs and medication as needed, measure blood glucose to rule out alternate diagnoses, since critically low blood sugar levels can mimic stroke symptoms, and perform an EKG to confirm cardiac function and rule out cardiac causes of a patient’s illness.

So, how can you identify if a stoke is happening? The same way paramedics, like those at South Metro Fire Rescue, are trained to identify one. Chris Macklin and his team rely on the Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale (CPSS), Think FAST: Face, Arms, Speech, Time. In performing this test, responders assess facial droop by saying: “Smile for me”, or “Show me your teeth”; they assess something known as arm pronator drift, and ask the victim to put up their arms and hold them in place for ten seconds; they assess speech by asking the victim to repeat a pre-selected phrase like: “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” or “no ifs, ands, or buts.”

CPSS is highly specific for stroke, but is not extremely sensitive. This means if you have a positive CPSS, you are almost certainly having a stroke, but if you do not have a positive CPSS, you still may be having a stroke. Here are some other stroke signs to look out for that may be very subtle:

    • Impaired balance or coordination
    • Vision loss
    • Headache
    • Confusion or altered mental status
    • Seizure

It is important to note that these symptoms can also look like other medical issues, such as:

    • Hypoglycemia
    • Post-ictal paralysis
    • Complex migraine
    • Overdose
    • Trauma
    • Bell’s palsy

If you see someone portraying signs of a stroke, it is imperative to call 911 right away as every second counts.

The Mission Continues

South Metro Fire Rescue hosts the South Metro Safety Foundation which provides multiple classes to the public that include babysitting, teen driving, adult/senior driving and CPR/AED with First Aid. The CPR/AED First Aid class addresses stroke signs and symptoms and early access to the 911 system.

South Metro Fire Rescue espouses the value of early recognition and early access to the 911 system contributes to the life saving measures deployed by our Paramedics and Firefighters.

If it wasn’t for Cindy’s co-worker recognizing the signs and acting quickly, plus South Metro Fire Rescue’s quick response, professionalism, and training, Cindy may not be with us today, or have recovered quickly enough to share her life-changing story. She later met with and thanked the team of first responders that saved her life and continues to tell her story and spread awareness.

If your district is in need of various safety or first-aid trainings, our safety consultants are available for in-person site visits. We also offer our members, free of charge, the Vector Solutions LMS online training platform, which also counts towards training credit for Property and Liability members. For more info, visit our safety consulting page and our training page.

To read more amazing stories about our members, check out our member spotlight page.

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