Quick work gives heart attack patients a better chance to recover

Staff in the Chest Pain Center at Carle Foundation Hospital takes this responsibility seriously. Every minute matters.

Since 2008, Carle has received the Gold Star Award from the Society of Chest Pain Centers for providing outstanding cardiac care, quickly diagnosing heart attack, and getting patients the life-saving treatment they need.
What happens if you come into the emergency room complaining of chest pain? “A triage nurse will do a quick assessment,” said Erin Meyers, RN, Carle Emergency Department Manager. “If the nurse suspects a heart attack or another heart emergency, the patient will get an EKG, aspirin, blood work, and chest x-ray to see if they’re having a heart attack.”

“We don’t care what the person has had to eat, if they have a history of indigestion, or if they think the arm pain is because they did too much lifting. You could have eaten a burrito and still be having a heart attack. If the patient’s symptoms and vital signs are a cause for concern, we give them a complete exam,” Meyers explained.
If tests indicate a heart attack, the patient immediately goes to the cardiac catheterization lab for emergency procedures – stenting or angioplasty – that will restore blood flow to the heart. The sooner the patient arrives in the lab, the better chance doctors have to save heart muscle which gives the patient a better chance to make a full recovery.

Y.J. Chih knows first-hand how important it is to get to the Carle Chest Pain Center quickly. Chih woke up one evening in early July feeling tightness in the chest. He went to the Carle Emergency Department where doctors and nurses took immediate action.

“Within five minutes of arriving, I was told I was having a heart attack, and within the hour, I was on the operating table. As a 97 year-old man, I understood there were great risks, but it needed to be done.  Dr. Naveed Adoni placed a stent in an artery that was 99-percent blocked. A few hours later I felt almost normal again,” Chih said.

“I feel so grateful for the outstanding treatment by the entire medical staff from the cardiologist and nurses, to all the assistants and support staff.  They were exceptionally efficient and praiseworthy. Thanks to the Carle Heart and Vascular Institute team, I feel great and hope to lead a fairly normal life again hereafter,” Chih concluded.

So when should you call 911 if you suspect a heart attack? Meyers says if you experience:

• Chest pain
• Chest tightness
• Shortness of breath
• Dizziness or light-headedness
• Nausea

“Even if you have experienced these symptoms in the past, if it feels different than prior experiences, come to the Emergency Department and get it checked out,” Meyers said.

“If you’re having chest pain associated with any activity, you need a heart exam.”

Meyers adds people should call 911 and have the ambulance drive them or their loved one to get medical help. “Our people at Carle Arrow Ambulance can begin treating a suspected heart attack while on the way to the hospital.”

“We want you to get here fast so we can treat your heart fast,” she concluded.