Lifesaver on wheels

Mobile Stroke Unit expands to Bristol Township and Bristol Borough through collaboration with Bucks County Rescue Squad

Hitting the road: Through a collaborative partnership with Bucks County Rescue Squad, the Mobile Stroke Unit, which previously served only Bensalem, is now accessible to residents of Bristol Township and Bristol Borough. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

When an individual is experiencing a stroke, every minute counts when it comes to treatment.

According to Dr. Robert H. Rosenwasser, MBA, professor and chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University, stroke kills about 140,000 Americans each year and is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability.

In August, Jefferson Health partnered with Bensalem Rescue Squad to launch what it branded a “lifesaver on wheels” – the Mobile Stroke Unit, which brings the first 30 minutes of emergency care that a patient would receive in a certified stroke center directly to their home.

After three months serving the 68,000 residents and more than 1 million visitors of Bensalem Township, the Mobile Stroke Unit is now accessible to residents of Bristol Township and Bristol Borough through a collaborative partnership with Bucks County Rescue Squad.

“The success we’ve seen since implementing the MSU in Bensalem gives us great hope that we can continue to improve these statistics with the expansion of services in Bristol Township and Bristol Borough,” said Rosenwasser.

John Roussis, director, Jefferson Health, Mobile Stroke Unit, said this initiative is potentially the difference between life and death.

“The ability to now expand this life-saving service to Bristol Borough and Bristol Township, which will cover an additional 10-mile radius and 34,000 residents, helps us all work toward preserving brain function and reducing the incidence of serious, long-term disabilities among stroke patients,” Roussis said.

So how does the Mobile Stroke Unit function? As the region’s first university-based, high-tech MSU, it works with emergency medical services, the Jefferson Expert Telestroke physician team and medical command physicians in the county.

The ambulance-esque vehicle is equipped with advanced telemedicine capability, a CT scanner and specialty-trained EMTs, paramedics, pre-hospital registered nurses, CT technicians on-site and remote neurospecialist physicians via telehealth that make up the “Brain Rescue Team.” This team is specially trained to assess, test and treat patients in the field before they are transported to the emergency department, shaving precious minutes or hours off treatment time.

“The MSU has been an invaluable addition to our team and our community,” said Thomas Topley, executive director, Bensalem Rescue Squad. “Since its official field launch in August, we have responded to over 50 calls related to patients experiencing stroke-like symptoms, and we are pleased to be able to extend the service more broadly by partnering with the Bucks County Rescue Squad.”

Marty Liczbinski, chief of operations, Bucks County Rescue Squad, expressed his excitement over the partnership.

“This is what the future of EMS and pre-hospital care is moving toward, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of this innovative service for the Bristol Township and Bristol Borough communities. Bringing the MSU to the doorstep of a patient experiencing a suspected stroke is a huge advancement in terms of saving time and brain,” he said.

In Liczbinski’s opinion, the MSU is a prime example of what can be accomplished through collaboration.

“Jefferson has always been a great partner, and we’ve worked with them to offer opportunities to their JeffStat students, helping them gain experience and increased ride times with our team,” he added. “Plus, working with Bensalem Rescue Squad shows that two separate EMS entities can work together to bring something so positive to the communities we serve.”

Maureen DePrince, senior director of neuroscience, Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience, shared Liczbinski’s sentiment on how vital a resource like the MSU truly is.

“The prospect of a stroke and its effects is frightening,” she said. “It is important for community members to know the signs and symptoms of stroke and to call 9-1-1. The Mobile Stroke Unit will bring the experts and the treatment to your doorstep.” ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at