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Quality of Life. That's what it's all about.

Community Hospital helps improve heart health in our community

Picture it. You're experiencing a sudden onset of serious chest pain, and you decide to call 9-1-1. An ambulance is immediately dispatched to your home, carrying a paramedic who has an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine designed to transmit information about your heart to the hospital. Equipped with three leads, which will be patched to your left and right clavicles and to your rib cage, it is capable of capturing only certain portions of your heart rhythm.

"So here comes the paramedic with his three leads. He identifies an abnormal rhythm and, thinking you're having a heart attack, he puts you on an IV," says fire chief Sidney R. Reade of Carmel Regional Fire and Ambulance. "He doesn't know if or what kind of heart attack you're having, but he takes you to the emergency room, where they'll put you on a 12-lead, call a cardiologist, and wait for him to show up to read the ECG."

But what if you're having the kind of heart attack that requires immediate intervention, like a stent, and you should have gone not to the emergency room but to the cardiac catheterization lab, like the one at Community Hospital?
What if paramedics were provided with 12, not 3, leads to transmit comprehensive data to a cardiologist directly from the field? What if you could have benefited from the possible 90 minutes or more that technology would have saved? What if your life had been saved by early intervention?

But 12-lead transmission is expensive. It requires additional training. It warrants complementary technology, like the PDA (personal digital assistant) the cardiologist would need to wear to receive data transmissions from the field. But, it could make a difference.

Which is why Reade was determined to get 12-lead heart monitors into the field. A pilot study was approved at Duke University. Carmel Regional Fire and Ambulance was accepted into the study, which provided one monitor and staff training. Now all they needed was a hospital partner and a few more 12-lead monitors.

As part of its Community Benefit Program, Community Hospital provided not only the partnership, but a grant for $101,524.09, which funded five 12-lead monitors.

"Our program went in service on November 1, 2006," says Reade, "with the capability of sending the ECG by wireless telemetry to an on-call cardiologist at Community Hospital. On November 4, we successfully made a diagnosis, transmitted the ECG to the cardiologist, discussed the patient via the PDA, and received instructions to transport the patient directly to the cath lab. The patient received an early intervention as a result, saving his life."

In this case, the patient was out of the cath lab and out of the hospital in one day.

"We have now had a couple of these cases," says Reade. "The second patient came here to the fire station to thank me. This is absolutely remarkable. It's really about the partnership between Community Hospital and the fire district. We would not have been able to do this without the 12-lead, which saves extremely precious minutes. In a heart attack, that portion of the heart muscle without oxygen is dying. That means the person's chance of having another heart attack, or dying, is huge. That's how important this partnership is."

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