Don’t Guess, Call EMS

Updated 5 years ago

By- Joan Marie PellegriniThis is to quote Thomas Judge, Director of Lifeflight of Maine. For years, we have known that Mainers are hesitant to call the ambulance when they are having chest pain. There are many reasons for this. Most people think that their pain is “really no big deal.” There is denial that they may actually be having a heart attack. Also, who want “all those ambulances and people showing up at my door.” All the neighbors will be wondering what is going on. Also, the ambulances are busy and should be left to pick up the “really sick” people. And, for people who live fairly close to a hospital, “I can get their faster by just driving myself.”Most people think that they will know if they are having a heart attack. This is because they assume the symptoms are the same for everyone. Unfortunately, this is not true. The chest pain can come on gradually or suddenly. It can be mild or severe. It can be in the front or back of the chest. It can radiate up to the chin or down the arms or even seem to be in the abdomen. A heart attack can happen to people who appear healthy and who feel well. A heart attach can happen even if you’ve had a physical that states you are healthy. Sure, there are other diagnosis that can cause similar symptoms but aren’t as serious (reflux disease, gallbladder disease, joint and muscle disease). However, this is the job of the Emergency Room physicians to determine.Here is what most people forget: the treatment starts once the Emergency Medical personnel arrive. They can get you oxygen, aspirin, and other medications that may be indicated. They can look at your heart rhythm. They can communicate directly with the doctors at the Emergency Room. If you truly are having a heart attack, timing is everything. The saying is “Time is muscle:” the more time that goes by without enough oxygen to the heart muscle, the more muscle that dies. There are some patients who need to have a procedure right away to open one or more of the arteries in their heart. This procedure is done in the cardiac catheterization lab (cath lab). If you are one of the patients who are having this type of heart attack, it is the goal of the doctors treating you to have you in the cath lab in less than 90 minutes. Your chances of getting your treatment this quickly are much higher if you call an ambulance.So, if there is even a remote possibility that you may be having a heart attack, pick up the phone and call 911. Don’t even think twice about it. So, if there is even a remote possibility that you may be having a heart attack, pick up the phone and call 911. Don’t even think twice about it.


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