This blog post is part of the Google+ Healthy Hangouts series on breaking and timely health news.
In the moments following a suspected heart attack, time begins ticking on your “heart clock”—each tick is another second that your heart goes without adequate blood flow. Because 3,000 to 4,000 individuals die as a result of sudden cardiac death, your decisions in those critical moments can be lifesaving.
If you think you’re experiencing a heart attack: pick up the phone, not the keys.
Sam Baker, the morning edition host at KERA 90.1 FM public radio in Dallas, Texas, moderated a panel of medical experts to discuss why calling 911 can benefit your quality of care in critical moments and to brainstorm why people are choosing to drive themselves to the emergency room after a heart attack.
To begin, it’s important to note: Not all emergency rooms are the same and not all are equipped to deal with heart-related conditions.
“Hedgy” MacAlister MacDonald, a cardiovascular invasive technician on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Garland, is part of the team that aims to better serve the community of those who fall victim to heart attacks.
During a certification seminar, he found that fifty percent of people drove themselves to the hospital after experiencing what they believed to be a heart attack. This was a major concern.
Why are people driving themselves to the hospital?
“People don’t want the ambulance with lights flashing and sirens blaring pulling up in front of their home and alerting neighbors,” MacDonald said.
But time is muscle, he emphasized.
“Time is muscle. When you’re having a heart attack, one of the major vessels in your heart is blocked. And once it’s blocked, there’s no blood getting to the muscle that surrounds your heart,” McDonald said.
Once 911 is called, the ambulance is preparing to transmit information about your condition to the hospital, so they are prepared for your care the moment you walk through the door.
Even before the patient gets into the ambulance, a standard of high-quality care is set by the emergency medical team.
“Within the first 10 minutes of patient contact, we do our best to get a picture of every side of the heart and transmit it to the ER from wherever we are with the patient,” said Chris Weinzapfel, a firefighter/paramedic with the City of Rowlett, Texas.
Once the image is sent electronically to the cath lab, the time of preparation for the hospital is nearly cut in half.
“In the time it takes for you to call 911, we’ve transmitted your electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) to the hospital, and they’ve prepared for you before you’ve ever arrived,” Weinzapfel said.
In the ambulance, you’re getting aspirin, repeat EKGs to check your status, pain management (if necessary) and nitrates to support blood flow by helping to open up other vessels in the heart.
Learn more in our Google+ Hangout below: