Thursday, February 11, 2010

How to Survive a Heart Attack

Posted: 09 Feb 2010 03:44 PM PST

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States and, more and more often, TVF&R’s firefighters are called upon to help people suffering from a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest. February is National Heart Month and TVF&R wants to remind you that you can help save a life if someone nearby suffers a heart attack.

Most heart attacks happen at home. A heart attack is much different than sudden cardiac arrest. A heart attack can begin so slowly or mildly that a person is unaware of what he or she is experiencing. Symptoms include:

§ Chest discomfort lasting more than a few minutes or goes away and returns (may feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain);

§ Upper body discomfort such as pain or discomfort, in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach;

§ Shortness of breath

§ Sweating, nausea, or lightheadedness.

If you experience these symptoms – don’t delay; call 9-1-1 right away! Let us assess your situation and get you in the system! Time is crucial. The heart is a muscle and it deteriorates with each passing minute from the onset of a heart attack until treatment. Every TVF&R unit carries a cardiac monitor with 12 lead EKG capabilities. Our paramedics are able to diagnose if the heart is failing and begin immediate treatment. If a patient must be transported, information gathered by paramedics is relayed to the local hospital, enabling physicians and staff to activate special heart teams and prepare for the patient BEFORE their arrival. The national standard for field to cath lab is about 90 minutes. Thanks to our 12 lead EKGs in the field, we now have patients making it from field to the cath lab in under an hour! Remember – time is muscle!!

The survival rate for cardiac arrest patients is bleak; the national average for patients who live to be discharged from a hospital is about 5 percent. However, TVF&R’s survival rate over the past three years has ranged from 10.8 percent to 22.9 percent – making it among the top in the nation. TVF&R attributes its strong survival rates to several factors: quick calls to 9-1-1, dispatchers instructing callers to perform Hands-Only CPR, the growing availability of AEDs in the region, and TVF&R’s quick EMS response.

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