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By Todd Early
Oldham County EMS Director
Heart disease has a staggering impact on the nation, Commonwealth and Oldham County. Kentucky is eighth nationally in cardiovascular disease death rates with about 1,100 deaths annually.
About 15 percent of all hospitalizations and 30 percent of all Kentucky deaths are related to heart disease. In Oldham County, EMS responds to an average of 320 heart-related calls annually in addition to about 100 heart rhythm disturbances and 30 heart attacks.
We are making great strides, as evidenced by Oldham County’s recent designation as Kentucky’s 10th HeartSafe Community on Sept. 4. This prestigious designation by the Kentucky Department of Public Health recognizes the community’s efforts to improve heart care through the work of Oldham County EMS, Baptist Health La Grange, the Oldham County Health Department and other local public safety agencies. This recognition acknowledges the community’s emphasis on improving care for our citizens.
While Oldham County has done well in improving heart care, there is still much to be done.
Watching for the signs
What can we do? Prevention is always the best medicine. Public education and getting speedy treatment are the most effective. Heart disease is treatable if patients recognize the situation and seek healthcare immediately.
Recognizing signs and symptoms of heart problems has an enormous impact on whether you’ll survive a heart attack and what kind of quality of life you will have afterwards.
Denial of the following symptoms is very common, but that’s a mistake that could cost you dearly:
•Shortness of breath
•Discomfort in either arm that may radiate into the back, neck or jaw
If any of these signs are noticed, DO NOT WAIT -- call 911. Do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital. Trained paramedics and EMTs in an equipped ambulance will give you immediate care that is critical to your survival. Those who suffer cardiac arrest before reaching the hospital have only a four percent chance of survival.
Handling heart attacks
How the EMS handles heart attacks has changed drastically in the last five years.
Typically, a patient will be resuscitated in the first six minutes, right at the patient’s location. The same care that will be provided at the hospital will be provided by EMS. Staying at the patient’s location and giving immediate treatment is the current standard.
After a call to 911 you may expect that a dispatcher recommend that you take a single 81 mg baby aspirin.
EMS will work closely with fire department first responders to make sure that quality care is initiated quickly.
Oldham County EMS can perform hospital-quality 12 lead EKGs to diagnose specific types of heart attacks. This information can be sent ahead to specialized hospitals such as Baptist Health Louisville. This allows the patient to bypass the Emergency Department and go straight to a cardiac catheterization lab where the heart attack is stopped. This saves valuable time and heart muscle.
EMS has also developed relationships with local hospitals to make sure there’s a smooth hand-off of the patient to the hospital staff.
Where do we go from here? Can we really make a difference?
In recent months Oldham County EMS has distributed nearly 1,000 CPR Anytime kits to the community by working with Oldham County Schools, Baptist Health La Grange and church and civic groups. This grant-funded program is free to residents who want a convenient approach to learning CPR which is proven to save lives.
Baptist Health La Grange is ramping up its heart care services with Louisville Cardiology Group and development of a new cardiac testing center opening in early 2014. The La Grange hospital works closely with Baptist Health Louisville to provide speedy top-notch heart care. Baptist Health Louisville is one of 25 hospitals in the nation to earn the Mission: Lifeline® Heart Attack Receiving Center accreditation from the American Heart Association.
Oldham County EMS also operates the local American Heart Association CPR Center. By doing this, inexpensive public programs are available for CPR, Advanced Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support classes.
Additionally, EMS support of automated external defibrillators (AED) programs and their availability in the community has been demonstrated to save lives. The Oldham County Health Department has done much work in this area.
Our community’s recent HeartSafe designation illustrates that we have many key elements in place to further improve on heart care. We know that when community leaders, public safety agencies, hospitals and the public continue to work together, we can lead Kentucky in improving the quality of heart and stroke care in Oldham County.
Oldham County EMS is managed by Baptist Health La Grange through an agreement with the Oldham County Ambulance Taxing District.