For Heart Patients, Minutes Count

February 5, 2015

Before leaving the hospital, patient Virginia Martin
had a chance to visit with Dr. Timothy Schloss and
the cath lab team that saved her life.
From left: Dr. Schloss, Jen Papin, Virginia Martin,
Amy Lauer and Rodney Yates.

When Virginia Martin’s recurring neck pain along with the “fluttering” in her chest and heart lasted for a week and wouldn’t go away, she finally took her daughter’s advice to get an EKG at nearby Mercy Clinic Family Medicine – Salem. Although she didn’t realize it, she was having a heart attack.

“My heart didn’t feel right,” Martin said of the persistent pain. “I’d had the feeling in my chest for about a week, but it would go away. That morning, it didn’t go away.”

Martin’s daughter Amanda Blaylock, a medical assistant at Mercy Clinic Salem, recalled the morning her mom came into the office.

“When she walked in the door she yelled my name and I ran to her to find she was ash gray, weak and couldn’t even stand up - basically lifeless,” Blaylock said. “Her EKG was abnormal and her blood pressure was extremely low, the on-site doctor gave the order to call 911.”

Martin was quickly flown by helicopter to Mercy Hospital St. Louis. Just 12 minutes after her arrival, the cardiac catheterization team had the artery open.

“The feeling in my chest went away immediately after the procedure,” Martin said. “I just can’t get over how fast they worked. It’s phenomenal.”

The remarkable speed treating her was the result of a two-year collaborative rework of the STEMI (ST segment elevation myocardial infarction) process recently completed at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. It allows the team to treat heart attack patients faster than ever thanks to fewer redundancies and improved collaboration between first responders, the rapid access team, the emergency department and catheterization lab.

At Mercy, the unique system of notification with first responders makes a real difference. Once first responders recognize a STEMI, they call Mercy Rapid Access to activate the team before reaching the hospital. This is just one of the time- and heart-saving steps in the collaborative process that enables caregivers to take steps in tandem rather than sequentially.

“Overall, the process has cut the time it takes for a patient to move from the ED to the cath lab by approximately 30 percent - saving heart tissue and improving outcomes for our patients,” said Dr. Timothy Schloss, Mercy Clinic Heart and Vascular cardiologist and section chief of interventional cardiovascular medicine at Mercy Hospital St. Louis.

The national benchmark is to open the artery within 90 minutes. Within 60 minutes is significant. At Mercy St. Louis, the median time is 53 minutes, which in the top 25 percent of hospital performance nationwide.

Dr. Schloss continued, “The complete rework of the process has helped deliver more coordinated, faster care – from first responders all the way through the hospital and ultimately to the outpatient Mercy Clinic offices.”

Despite other health issues, Martin is doing well. She’s receiving follow-up care from John Brunts, MD, a Mercy Clinic Heart and Vascular cardiologist in Rolla, has stopped smoking and is enrolled in cardio-pulmonary rehab. Thanks to Mercy’s broad network of care and ability to act very quickly when she needed it – just 12 minutes from door to balloon – her prognosis is good.

After seeking professional heart attack treatment, Download the Mercy Heart-Healthy Guide for further information about heart disease management, treatment and general heart health.

What’s important for all patients experiencing heart attacks is getting to quality care quickly. The goal is to always get to the closest well-equipped hospital for STEMI care as fast as possible. Click here for more about Mercy heart care near you.

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