Because we live in a rural state there is the perception that many people are at a disadvantage when it comes to finding quality care. However, thanks to generous grants and improved technology; rural health care continues to disprove that trend.
It's been a little over a month since Gerald Heismeyer started his stint in cardiac rehab.
"It was November eight that I woke up and along with my cup of coffee I had a heart attack." Said Heismeyer.
Little did he know, he had a team of caregivers ready to intervene. Plankinton volunteer EMT Helen Boyd was first on scene. It was clear Gerald's heart was having problems so she took an EKG of his heart and relayed the information on to Avera Queen of Peace.
"We can take the 12-lead and put the monitors on and send it right to the hospital right from the beginning so before you ever get going too far, Mitchell already knows what we're going to bring them." Said Boyd.
Thanks to the Helmsley Charitable Trust rural departments have access to these 12-lead machines and can help expedite their emergency response times. But the ER staff weren't the only one's rallying to save Gerald's life, Mitchell paramedics were dispatched to meet them halfway.
"We met on the interstate, we grabbed our equipment and hopped in the ambulance with them and that's when we met Mr. Heismeyer." Said paramedic Andrew Shank with Mitchell Fire & Ambulance.
This rendezvous with paramedics starts the cardiac care before patients like Gerald come through the hospital doors. It may be just minutes, but even sixty seconds can be life-changing.
"It's critical, time is heart muscle so the quicker that we can get them the appropriate medications to see if we can try to open up the vessels if possible the better off the patients going to be." Said Dr. David Balt, an emergency room physician with Avera Queen of Peace.
Gerald's care didn't end in Mitchell, he was air-lifted on to the Avera Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls. Marking the last step in a continuation of quality care.
"And I even remember going into the cath lab over at the Heart Hospital and being told this is going to burn and well yeah it did!" Said Heismeyer.
Gerald had four stents placed to open up his arteries but his experience also opened his eyes to how crucial first responders are in rural South Dakota.
"I would not be here, I have no doubt in my mind that the only reason that I am here is because a whole lot of people including the first crew that pick me up they all did the right things at the right time." Said Heismeyer.
Gerald's team of caregivers definitely impacted the end result, but he played just as big of role. Had Gerald not called for help and had his wife drive him to Mitchell; the outcome may have been completely different.
"He probably or certainly could've had more damage than he did because in this case it worked well and he got perfused in a relatively short period of time it went by the book." Said Dr. Balt.
It's a proven protocol to keep hearts beating and it was executed to perfection. Whether it's the EMT's, paramedics or doctors; to the people they've saved they share the same name. Hero.
"They are just lifesavers that's what they are and hopefully that's what they'll be for years to come." Said Heismeyer.
Gerald's experience and the care he received is a prime example of Mission: Lifeline.
The mission's goal is to develop and expand protocols for deadly STEMI heart attacks in rural areas. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.