AS PART of National Stroke Week, Cowes local Stephen Fullarton has detailed his experience after suffering a massive stroke on Phillip Island in June.

This comes as Ambulance Victoria (AV) is calling on residents to know the signs of stroke, after a dramatic rise in patients being treated through its Victorian Stroke Telemedicine (VST) service.

In the last financial year, VST provided life-saving stroke care to 4205 patients, up 36 per cent on the previous year (3087).

Mr Fullarton, 69, was dragged to the shore by another surfer who recognised he was having a stroke and called an ambulance.

The building designer and former Bass Coast Shire councillor was quickly taken to Wonthaggi hospital, where he underwent a VST consultation, and was later flown to The Alfred Hospital to be treated for haemorrhagic stroke (bleeding into the brain).

Mr Fullarton described his experience as astonishing.

“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 through 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.”

Mr Fullarton was able to walk within days of starting rehabilitation and has since regained his speech.

AV director stroke services, Professor Chris Bladin, said June was VST’s busiest month on record, with 419 consultations.

“Stroke is one of our biggest causes of death and disability and we’re seeing more Victorians suffering strokes than ever before,” he 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.”

Prof Bladin said Mr Fullarton’s case demonstrated 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.

AV paramedics will be out in force throughout August educating their local communities about stroke, as part of a new collaboration with the Stroke Foundation.

National Stroke Week runs from August 2-8; for more information, visit

F.A.S.T. signs

• Face – Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
• Arms – Can they lift both arms?
• Speech – Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
• Time is critical – If you see any of these signs, call 000 straight away.


• Stroke occurs every 19 minutes in Australia.
• More than 80 per cent of strokes can be prevented by managing an individual’s stroke risk and living a healthy lifestyle.
• Each year more people are having stroke at a younger age and more regional Australians are having a stroke than their city counterparts.