Behind the Scenes of a Heart Attack

Learn What Any Hospital Should Do

Have you ever heard of “door-to-balloon time?” It’s that critical amount of time that it takes for a heart attack patient to get from an initial assessment into the Emergency Room, and it should be under 90 minutes. During this time, an accredited Chest Pain Center should begin an intricate set of steps to guide treatment once they receive their patient.

A heart attack patient’s journey first begins in the ambulance

  1. ElectrocardiogramAn electrocardiogram (a test that records the heartbeat rhythm) is given en route to the hospital. The results of this test are electronically sent to the on-call emergency physician.
  2. The “All Call”If the emergency physician determines that the patient is having a heart attack, the physician will activate an “all call,” which prepares the Emergency Department and Cardiac Catheterization Clinic team for the patient’s arrival.
  3. Patient Stabilized After an initial evaluation by the emergency medicine physician and a cardiologist, the patient is stabilized.
  4. Cardiac Lab if necessary, the patient will be transported to the Cardiac Lab for a coronary angiography. This is a rotational X-ray test that uses dye inserted through a catheter to determine if there are any blockages in the coronary arteries.
  5. Procedure is PerformedIf the technician finds a blockage, a “percutaneous coronary intervention” is performed. This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that aims to clear blockages and blood clots. A coronary stent may be placed to widen the artery.
  6. Patient RecoveryThe patient will then recover from surgery in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Patients are usually up and about within an incredible eight-hour time span and can usually go home a few days later.

Learn the Signs of a Heart Attack

As a patient, it’s important to remain cognizant of heart attack symptoms, which are different for men and women. You can find more information and heart healthy tips at heart.org.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re experiencing any unusual and concerning abdominal discomfort, along with chest or jaw pain, seek medical care immediately. It’s your job to catch a heart attack early—the medical team will take care of the rest.

Make a Plan for an Emergency

You know to call 9-1-1 if you or a loved one suffers a life-threatening emergency or illness. But did you know that what you do before and after you make that call can be just as important as dialing those three numbers? Use this guide to find out how you can prepare for an emergency.

When faced with an emergency situation, it is often difficult to stay calm and remember everything you need. Because of this, experts recommend that you prepare for an emergency before it happens by gathering all of the information you’ll need to give the 9-1-1 operator and emergency team.  This includes:

  • Your street address, apartment number and closest cross street
  • A call-back number in case you are disconnected, or emergency personnel have additional questions
  • Chronic medical conditions, if any
  • Recent medical events or illnesses, if any

Keep this information handy (by the telephone or on the refrigerator, for instance) and include contact information for your doctors and family members. Make sure caregivers, babysitters and others know where to find this information. It is also important to have a list of allergies and medications, including how much and how often each is taken.

Just as important as having the patient’s medical history and medication list handy is deciding whether or not a call to 9-1-1 is truly necessary. 9-1-1 services are meant for patients who require rapid evaluation and transport. When 9-1-1 is called and it is not a true emergency, that ambulance and dispatcher are no longer available for someone who is having a true emergency like a heart attack or stroke.

You Just Called 9-1-1. What’s Next?

When a patient or family member calls 9-1-1, they will talk to a dispatcher who is trained to send emergency vehicles to patients and find out preliminary information that can be helpful to emergency personnel.

In case the emergency is happening while the patient or family member is on the phone, 9-1-1 operators are also trained to give advice on how to handle these situations until help arrives. For instance:

  • In a choking victim, the operator may give advice on how to clear a victim’s airway, whether through the Heimlich Maneuver or another method.
  • In a patient who is bleeding, the operator will give advice on how to control the bleeding, such as applying direct pressure until the ambulance arrives.
  • In a patient whose heart has stopped, the operator might give instructions on how to perform CPR while waiting for the ambulance.

Waiting for Help to Arrive

Help is on the way, but don’t hang up the phone until the 91-1 operator tells you to do so. Families or patients can prepare for EMS’s arrival by unlocking doors, grabbing the patient’s medication list and clearing the area from unnecessary bystanders. If the patient is a minor, or an elderly or handicapped person, make sure an adult or person with power of attorney is available to authorize care.  Furthermore, if there is information regarding care that the patient, or their medical power of attorney, does not want to have rendered, such as Do Not Resuscitate status, that information should be readily available to EMS personnel upon their arrival.

While nobody ever hopes to need 9-1-1, it helps to be prepared in case that day comes. In the event of an emergency, a few minutes can make all the difference.

Preventing Food Poisoning this Summer

Ants aren’t the only pests ready to spoil your picnic

Food poisoning may also be lurking around the corner. Here are a few easy food handling steps you can take to keep your summertime al fresco meals healthy and fun!

According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from food borne diseases each year. According to the National Poison Control Center, there are four steps that can help keep your food as safe as possible

1. Clean

Wash your hands and all surfaces that touch meat. Do not wash meat, as it can splash bacteria throughout your kitchen. Clean cutting boards by washing them in hot, soapy water after each use, then rinse with clear water or use a dishwasher, unless the board is laminated. Air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels. To sanitize cutting boards, make a solution with one tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution, let it stand for a few minutes, rinse with clear water, and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.

2. Separate

Keep your fruit, poultry, fish and meat separate at all times, including while your foods are in the grocery cart, bags and refrigerator. While prepping your food, make sure you use separate cutting boards for each food item.

3. Cook

Use a thermometer to ensure food is cooked properly. A free food temperature chart is available on both the CDC and USDA’s websites.

4. Chill

Put leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate immediately. Do not thaw frozen meats on the counter top. Instead, submerge them in cold water, ensuring that you refill with cold water every 30 minutes, or place in the refrigerator for a few days.

Wrapping Up…

Keeping the four steps above in mind, it’s also important to avoid foods that look or taste unusual and to thoroughly reheat leftovers.

From norovirus to salmonella, there are many viruses that cause food poisoning, and the symptoms are similar for each strain. Gastroenteritis, more commonly known as the stomach flu, can be classified by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

To prevent the spread of disease, wash your hands frequently, and limit the number of people you come in contact with.

If your symptoms do not go away within a few days, call your health care provider. A trip to the Emergency Department is only absolutely necessary if you feel dehydrated, have a high fever, yellow eyes or skin, blood in your vomit or stool, or if you are experiencing sharp pain.