Base EMTs stress heart attack victims seek immediate medical attention
By Marti Gatlin
| Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | March 28, 2013
March 28, 2013 --
Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany emergency medical services personnel strongly recommend that active-duty personnel, Civilian-Marines, retirees, contractors, families and guests who work, play or live here, call the installation’s EMS if they think they are having a heart attack.
To call MCLB Albany’s Fire and Emergency Services Department from a base phone, dial 911, and from a cell phone, dial 229-639-5911.
Assistant Fire Chief of Operations Matthew R. Goldstein, MCLB Albany Fire and Emergency Services Department, emphasizes that calling the department immediately if someone thinks he or she is having a heart attack increases the person’s chance of recovery. The American Heart Association also urges not waiting.
A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or stopped, according to the American Heart Association’s website, www.heart.org.
Information posted on the association’s website describes how a heart attack happens. Coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly become thicker and harder from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances, called plaque.
This slow process is known as atherosclerosis. If the plaque breaks open and a blood clot forms that blocks the blood flow, a heart attack occurs.
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense - the “movie heart attack,” where no one doubts what’s happening, but most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort, and people often aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help, according to the American Heart Association.
The association and Goldstein stress that people should know what the symptoms of a heart attack are and to not wait more than five minutes to call for help.
“For every minute we withhold electrical shock to be able to get the heart back into an organized rhythm, the chance of recovery drops 10 percent,” Goldstein said.
“The defibrillators around base are specifically for two heart rhythms where we actually have to stop the heart and allow the heart to get its normal electrical conduction back in line, and that’s what we do when we do a defibrillation,” he added, noting it’s like rebooting a computer because the heart has its own electrical conduction system.
All of the personnel with the base’s Fire and Emergency Services Department, who
respond to patients with cardiac arrest or other medical problems, are at a minimum an emergency medical technician, Goldstein said.
EMTs are broken down into three different levels, he said. The beginning level is Basic, followed by Advanced and Paramedic, top of the line. The fire department here consists of seven EMT-Paramedics, five EMT-Intermediates and 17 EMT-Basics.
Those firefighters, who are paramedics such as Firefighter/Paramedic Jacob Hackett, perform advanced life support.
“One of the main things under advanced life support is advanced cardiac life support,” Goldstein said. “This is the ability to defibrillate and administer medicine that allows the heart to do different things to get that heart beating in the way it’s supposed to.”
Hackett reiterated Goldstein’s and the American Heart Association’s pleas for people to call for help the minute they experience heart attack or any other medical symptoms.
“The most important aspect is if you know something is going on with your body, if something is medically wrong with you, you need to call us,” Hackett said. “It’s much better to call us and find out it was a false alarm than to not call us and find out you’re having a true medical emergency.
“Every second you wait, you’re decreasing your chance of survival,” he said
He described heart attack symptoms as chest pain, movement of pain around the body from the left or right side for both men and women; feeling dizzy to difficulty catching your breath.
“There’s always an exception to the rule,” Hackett said. “Everyone’s body is designed anatomically different so what you experience during a cardiac event and what I would experience during a cardiac event could be very different.”
“When we respond to a cardiac incident, essentially we become like a temporary emergency room set up around (the patient),” he continued. “We have the capability to do what they would be doing in an emergency room if you walked into an emergency room, and we can be doing these things right at your desk, in the middle of the Commissary, out in a field where somebody’s working.
“We are basically going to set up an emergency room around you and provide ventilation support, administer cardiac medicines, and provide the same heart monitoring capabilities a cardiologist has,” Hackett said. “Essentially we’re providing the same care sitting in the back of the ambulance, before we leave, they would be doing in an emergency room.”
Heart Attack Symptoms
According to the American Heart Association’s website, www.heart.org, the following are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
• Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
• Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Learn the signs, but remember this: Even if an individual is not sure he or she is having a heart attack, have it checked out. Tell a doctor your symptoms. Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives - maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number.
Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. EMS staff can begin treatment when they arrive - up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too. It is best to call EMS for rapid transport to the emergency room.