South Texas Health System Honors Two Emergency Medical Technicians As Hometown Heroes

Thursday, December 14, 2023
Edgar Gonzalez, EMT-Basic, and Brooklyn Avila, EMT-Basic, receive their Hometown Heroes Award

Edgar Gonzalez, EMT-Basic, and Brooklyn Avila, EMT-Basic, with their Hometown Heroes Awards

There is a popular phrase in medicine that goes “time is brain” which refers to the importance of taking fast action when a person is suffering from a stroke. This means recognizing the signs of a stroke quickly so that the patient can begin treatment as soon as possible to prevent serious disability or death.

Because two local emergency medical technicians were able to recognize a stroke in a local elderly man, the stroke team at South Texas Health System McAllen was able to begin life-saving treatment for the patient. For the critical steps they took to obtain immediate and proper care for the patient, Edgar Gonzalez, EMT-Basic, and Brooklyn Avila, EMT-Basic, were presented with South Texas Health System’s Hometown Heroes Award during a special surprise ceremony on Wednesday.

Nominations for the STHS Hometown Heroes Award

If you’d like to nominate an exceptional first responder in our community for the STHS Hometown Heroes Award, you can fill out a nomination form.

To learn more about STHS McAllen’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, visit STHS McAllen's website.

When the duo responded to a service call in Alamo on October 31, they were able to identify stroke symptoms in a 95-year-old man. Following a complete assessment of the patient, the first responders took the crucial step of transporting him to the nearest Comprehensive Stroke Center, STHS McAllen.

At the center, the patient received IV thrombolytic treatment, commonly known as a clot buster. The identification of a large vessel occlusion (LVO) — the obstruction of large, proximal cerebral arteries — led to the performance of a mechanical thrombectomy which is a procedure done to remove blood clots from the brain. Performed by Dr. Alexandros Georgiadis, a board-certified neurologist and stroke medical director at STHS McAllen, the procedure successfully recanalized the affected vessel.

“At STHS McAllen’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, we always emphasize the importance of getting stroke patients to the appropriate facility from the get-go so that no time is lost in getting them the proper treatment,” said Veronica Olivarez, Director of Neuroscience, South Texas Health System McAllen. “These two EMTs have clearly taken that message to heart, and I am grateful for the urgency and knowledge they displayed to help preserve this man’s life.”

Following treatment, the patient underwent intensive rehabilitation therapy at STHS McAllen and was eventually discharged and reunited with his family nearly a month later, on November 27, showing remarkable improvement in his mobility and speech deficits after the stroke, according to the patient’s care team.

“They recognized the seriousness of the patients’ presentation and made the critical decision to take him straight to a comprehensive stroke center as opposed to another hospital or emergency department that would not have those services,” noted Ray Siegel, EMS Community Liaison, South Texas Health System. “Though they are first-level EMTs, they still had the skillset and clinical wherewithal to recognize the stroke symptoms within the patient which is remarkable.”

Gonzalez and Avila only joined Med-Care EMS earlier this year — in August and September, respectively — but their shift supervisor at Med-Care EMS, Felipe Alvarez, said they’ve already proven themselves to be model employees.

“They're rookies but they’re very smart and very proactive,” Alvarez said. "They understand and are very aware that time is brain and that it’s important for us to quickly identify stroke symptoms using a pre-hospital assessment and be able to transport the patient to the nearest comprehensive stroke center.”

“I am very proud of them,” Alvarez added. “They’ve grown so much professionally and personally and developed into a great team.”