Survive, Don't Drive

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Heart Attack? Put Down the Car Keys and Pick Up the Phone.

Dallas, Feb. 11, 2014 -- You may already be familiar with the symptoms of a heart attack: chest pain, shortness of breath, discomfort in the arm, back or jaw, sweating for no obvious reason. And if you or someone you care about is having a heart attack, the most important thing is to get to the hospital as fast as possible, right? You don't want to wait for an ambulance, so you start to reach into your pocket for your car keys.

Stop. Instead, reach for your phone and dial 911.

That's the message of Baylor Medical Center at Garland's community campaign with area emergency medical services (EMS). “A few years back we began wondering how many heart attack patients drove themselves to the hospital versus arrived by ambulance,” says Hedgy MacDonald, EMT-P, CVIT, Baylor Garland's EMS liaison for interventional cardiology. “We found that over 50 percent drove themselves or had someone drive them to the hospital rather than call 911.”

It's a potentially fatal mistake. With an average response time of four minutes or less in the Garland area, paramedics with EMS crews can conduct vital diagnostic tests immediately upon arrival at the scene. Tests such as a field EKG can confirm whether or not someone is having a heart attack.

“EKGs are critical in getting the ball rolling,” says Chris Weinzapfel, Rowlett Fire Department-Station1 paramedic. “If the EKG picks up an irregularity, we can transmit those results in real time to the hospital.”

By notifying the hospital that a heart attack patient is on the way, the hospital can page the cardiac cath lab team, who will be responsible for treating the patient upon arrival. This is especially important after-hours and on weekends when team members may be at home.

“We've had times when the cath lab team has been paged and gotten to the hospital and been waiting before the patient has even arrived,” says MacDonald.

Heart attack patients who drive or are driven to the hospital not only have to have the diagnostic tests performed that EMS crews can provide in the field, but then have to wait for the cath lab team to be paged and arrive. In addition, after a field diagnosis, paramedics can begin providing life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital.

“We give aspirin, followed by IV and a follow-up EKG,” explains Weinzapfel. “We're also getting multiple vital signs on the way to the hospital so that by the time we arrive, all the diagnostics are done.”

Also, should a heart attack patient take a turn for the worse, EMS has the ability to intervene. This ability saved the life of an individual whose spouse attended one of Baylor Garland's community presentations. The man woke up in the middle of the night experiencing a heart attack and begged his wife to drive him to the hospital. But, after attending the presentation months earlier, she refused and called 911 instead.

“He coded in the back of the ambulance,” explains MacDonald. “But they had a defibrillator and were able to bring him back. Then as soon as he arrived at the hospital, we got him to the cath lab and opened up the blood vessel.”

There is a saying at Baylor Garland: "time is muscle.‟ When a clot in a blood vessel keeps blood from getting to an area of the heart muscle during a heart attack, the muscle starts to die off. The longer it goes without blood supply, the less chance the muscle will recover. By dialing instead of driving, time and muscle are being saved. After all, it's not how fast a heart attack patient gets to the hospital, but rather how quickly treatment begins.

About Baylor Medical Center at Garland
Baylor Medical Center at Garland is a fully accredited medical center serving the residents of Garland, Texas, and the neighboring communities of Wylie, Rowlett, Sachse, Mesquite and Murphy. Baylor Garland — part of Baylor Scott & White Health — provides advanced medical care in a healing, supportive environment. The hospital is recognized for comprehensive services in heart and vascular care, diagnostic and interventional imaging, women‟s services, pain management, wound care, sleep medicine, digestive disease, family medicine, and physical medicine and rehabilitation. For more information visit:

About Baylor Scott & White Health
Baylor Scott & White Health is a not-for-profit health care system with total assets of $8.3 billion* and the vision and resources to offer its patients continued quality care while creating a model system for a dramatically changing health care environment. The new system includes 43 hospitals, more than 500 patient care sites, more than 6,000 active physicians, 34,000 employees and the Scott & White Health Plan. For More Information visit:

* based on unaudited fiscal year 2013 financial statements

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