Doctor’s Orders: Do Not Drive! Call 911

October 31, 2016

If you or a loved one experiences the signs of a stroke or heart attack, Bassam Roukoz, medical director for cardiology at Mercy Hosptial Jefferson, recommends that you:

  • Call 911 immediately
  • Do not drive yourself or others to the hospital
  • REMEMBER - Care begins in the ambulance.

Up to 80 percent of patients experiencing chest pain symptoms drive themselves, or are driven, to the emergency room rather than calling 9-1-1. Why?

  • I can drive myself.
  • Someone else can drive me to the hospital.
  • The lights and sirens are embarrassing.

Please call 911 instead because:

  • If you drive yourself, you might pass out along the way. Then you could harm yourself and others.
  • Emergency service staff can start medical care immediately at your home or in the ambulance.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to death. It is more important that you receive the medical care you need right away. 
Dr. Roukoz says call 911 rather than driving yourself for heart attack symptoms.

Dr. Roukoz says call 911 rather than driving yourself for heart attack symptoms.

It’s a fact* that patients with chest pain symptoms who call an ambulance have quicker, more appropriate treatment and better survival rates. You could also need percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also called balloon treatment. This treatment opens the coronary vessel to dissolve blood clots in patients with heart attacks. If you need PCI, you need to be transported to a hospital that can provide it.

The first key is knowing the warning signs of a heart attack:

For Men and Women                                                        Specific to Women

Chest discomfort-pressure, tightness, fullness or pain in the center of the chest

Unusual fatigue, anxiety or weakness---Unexplained or on exertion

Discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or upper back

Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck or jaw

Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort

Chest Discomfort

Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness


Unusual fatigue, weakness





Remember, calling 9-1-1 when you think you need it, but don't, is better than not receiving life-saving treatment. And it can be hard to recognize a heart attack, so it is important that a health professional evaluate you to be certain.

*European Society of Cardiology (ESC) (2012, October 20). Calling an ambulance improves heart attack survival. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2013, from

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