Having a Heart Attack? What You Can Learn From One Patient’s Close Call


If you or a loved one is having a heart attack, don’t drive to the hospital. I repeat: “Do not drive to the hospital”. Call 911 immediately.

That  advice may seem like common sense, but studies have found about 50 percent of heart attack patients either drive themselves or have someone drive them to the hospital in the midst of a heart attack. Every minute that a person delays in getting medical treatment increases the likelihood of damage or even death to the heart muscle.

When you drive yourself or have someone drive you to the hospital in the midst of a heart attack, an average of 35 minutes is lost!

It’s a mistake made too often, and one I was recently reminded of last week. The national standard for the amount of time between a patient’s arrival in the emergency department and the opening of the blocked artery following a heart attack, or “door-to-balloon” time,  is 90 minutes.

But hospital staffs and EMS responders are constantly striving to work as a team to reduce this time and treat heart attack patients even quicker.

And I’m proud to say recently, Baylor Medical Center at Garland achieved a “door-to-balloon” time of 15 minutes for one patient.

Here’s how it happened: A man was having a heart attack and his wife drove him to the hospital. As they were driving, he told her he couldn’t make it, so they pulled into a fire station.

Unfortunately, the fire truck was out on a call, so another ambulance was sent for. The patient was helped immediately and soon, put in another vehicle to go to Baylor Garland.

Currently, the patient is in great condition. That’s because he was treated so quickly.

The ambulance crew called ahead of time, and we (Cath Lab team) met them down at the emergency room. The EMS crew kept the patient on a stretcher, instead of transferring him to a bed. He got a quick assessment in the ER, where he met the cardiologist.

I think some people drive themselves to the ER because they’re in the denial. Some people are worried about the expense of the ambulance. Or other people don’t like the attention of having an ambulance come to their house.

This is what I want people to know: When it comes to a heart attack, time is muscle.

You need help immediately because when your heart has a blockage, you’re not getting proper blood supply.

If you call 9-1-1, the EMS team can help make sure you do. The EMS team can also call ahead to the hospital and let them know that you or your loved one is on the way. This will help the hospital make sure everything is set-up for you once you arrive.  And the sooner you get that vessel restored and open to the heart, the better.

Information in this blog post was contributed by Alistair “Hedgy” MacDonald. EMT-P, a cardiovascular invasive technician in the cardiac catheterization lab at Baylor Medical Center at Garland. 

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Having a Heart Attack? What You Can Learn From One Patient’s Close Call