Having a heart attack is bad, having a S-T Elevation Myocardial Infarction or STEMI is worse. It poses the most serious threat to heart muscle. The earlier patients are treated, the better the outcome. That's why the Avera Queen of Peace Emergency Department and Mitchell Ambulance Service have developed a procedure to diagnose those patients quickly.
Joel Ward is happy to be upright, feeling well and walking through the Avera Queen of Peace Emergency Department instead of on a gurney having a heart attack, which was the case for him on January 4th, 2010. Initially he went to his regular doctor complaining of pain.
Ward says, "I went in because my teeth were hurting, my arm went numb and my necks went numb. I was in a lot of pain."
His doctor called 911. Joe Dolezal was the paramedic on duty that day. For 9 years Mitchell's Ambulance Service has been equipped with LifePAK, a 12-lead EKG monitor, but last year through a Helmsley Grant, they added a wireless modem and software to transmit that EKG to Avera Queen of Peace's ER.
Dolezal says, "We treat patients exactly like we always have, but now this gives the hospital and cardiologists in Sioux Falls a heads-up so they know what's happening right away and can be ready for us."
On the EKG they are looking for two particular areas. They call those areas Tombstone T-Waves because you end up in the ground with a tombstone if you don't get them fixed.
Jodi Doering, RN is the Avera Queen of Peace Emergency Department Director. She was also on duty the day Joel Ward came in. She says, "This was crucial in saving his life. Joel was having the worst kind of heart attack, a STEMI. If we didn't intervene quickly he was going to die. What we are most proud of is within 9 minutes of Joe presenting at Avera Queen of Peace ER we infused him with a special medicine called TNK. It's a clot buster that opens up the plugged blood vessel and then he was transported within 45 minutes and airlifted to Sioux Falls and the North Central Heart cath lab."
Ward ended up getting a stent placed in one of his arteries at the Avera Heart Hospital and walked out the door 2 days later. 5 months later he's humbled to take a walk back where his second chance in life began; the emergency department at Avera Queen of Peace.
Ward says, "It's very nice to see them and thank them. Especially for saving my life and helping me. It's exciting to see them and shake their hands."
Since time means heart muscle, Joel Ward is glad Mitchell had the technology to enable time to be on his side.