Early response to heart attacks vital, says ER director
Because the time to help heart attack victims is short, Parkview Regional Hospital Emergency Room Director Teri LaFoy and her associates focus on doing everything they can to quickly get the patient to the care they need.
As part of being ER Director, LaFoy educates the public on the need for heart attack victims to get care immediately. She spoke to the Mexia Lions Club earlier in December on this situation she deals with so often, but first, as Parkview’s chest pain coordinator, she reminded those listening of the accreditation that Parkview was awarded in 2016.
“Last year we became chest-pain accredited,” she said, which means the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care has accredited them as a chest pain center.
“That’s very important for our community because it means we have met 188 different items to become accredited,” she said. “If you come to our hospital, we are going to give you the very best cardiovascular care possible if you’re having any symptoms of a heart attack: congestive heart failure, angina, any possible symptoms of any heart problems. We’re going to get you the best care possible that you need, and we’re going to get you where you need to go as fast as we can.”
People often don’t realize they are having a heart attack, she said. Many people think heart attacks are heralded only by chest pain, but other symptoms may manifest themselves instead. Early response to symptoms is vital because about 85 percent of heart damage happens in the first two hours. Early, subtle warning signs include:
• A feeling of fullness in the chest or abdomen.
• Indigestion or heartburn that won’t go away.
• Pain that goes down one or both arms.
• Back pain, especially between the shoulder blades.
• Jaw or neck pain – anywhere from navel to neck.
• A general feeling of fatigue.
• Chest pain.
• Chest pressure, squeezing, a feeling of something sitting on the chest.
• Shortness of breath.
Patients who get to a hospital at the onset of a heart attack can be given medication to break the clot or be taken to a catheter lab to stop the damage before it occurs.
“(Then) you can go on with your life and have that normal-functioning heart and not live with that damage for the rest of your life,” LaFoy said.
As for how heart attacks happen, the heart is a muscle, and needs blood supply, like the rest of the body, she explained. When the arteries become blocked and a person tries to do something strenuous, or even something minor, like taking a walk, and needs more oxygen, they may experience some of the signs and symptoms above.
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