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Middle aged man having a heart attack

You wake from sleep.  It’s dark outside, your wife is sleeping peaceful, and you don’t feel well.  Your chest aches, you can’t catch your breath, and you feel a little nauseated.  Maybe you shouldn’t have eaten those spicy enchiladas for supper, or … maybe it’s your heart.  You take antacids, but you start to feel worse.  What do you do?  Do you wake your wife and drive yourself to the ER?  No, call 911.

I understand.  I worked as a paramedic for many years.  The ambulance is big, loud, and flashy.  It garners a lot of attention.  Yes, your neighbors will probably see it.  And yes, they will probably talk about it.  I totally understand.

As awesome and incredible as I think the ER and the cardiac cath lab are; what they do takes time.  You have to go through admissions and triage.  The triage nurse is trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of a MI (myocardial infarction or “heart attack”).  You will start receiving treatment immediately, if needed.  If you are having a MI, the cardiac cath lab team and cardiologist have to be notified, and cath lab has to prepare a room.  There will be EKGs, IVs, pills, and infusions, and that is before you get to the cath lab.  In the cath lab, there will be more medications, sheaths, aspiration catheters, balloons, and stents.  It sounds amazing, and it is, but it takes time.

Our current core measure assigned to us by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and The  Joint Commission requires a door to balloon time less than 90 minutes.  Door to balloon time is the amount of time that it takes for a patient with a STEMI (ST-elevation MI) to walk through our door and receive treatment in the cath lab.  Our third quarter average was 58.5 minutes, and we’re always trying to improve it.  The quicker we can get you to the cath lab, the quicker we can stop your heart attack.  The quicker we can stop your heart attack, the more heart muscle we can save.  So the question is “How can YOU decrease your door to balloon time?”  Call 911.

Last year, Reno County EMS responded to 536 cardiac related calls with an average response time of 6.5 minutes.  Reno County EMS has paramedics on every ambulance.  They are trained to evaluate, recognize, and start treatment for your heart attack BEFORE you get to the hospital.  They have the capabilities to transmit your EKG to the physician, while at your home.  They can also initiate the notification process much earlier.   

I recently read an article that a Chicago hospital performed a study that showed calling 911 decreased their door to balloon time by an average of 20 minutes.  I started wondering about Hutchinson Regional Medical Center’s door to balloon times, and I did a little research myself.  Was I surprised!  In 2015, calling 911 for your heart attack in Reno County, actually shaved off an average of 26 minutes!  Twenty-six heart saving minutes.  One small act with a huge payoff.  So when you wake up with that pressure in your chest, what are you going to do?  That’s right, call 911, take that big, loud, flashy ambulance to the hospital, and give your neighbors something to talk about!