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Saved in a heartbeat

Heart attack victim treated in record time

Joe D’Angelo left his Minooka home for Morris Hospital on December 19 just minutes behind the Minooka ambulance that was transporting his wife, Maggie.

Maggie was having a heart attack, and when Joe arrived at the hospital, he couldn’t believe the cardiac team had already stopped his wife’s heart attack using angioplasty and a stent.

“We were surprised,” says Joe D’Angelo, who waited for his son before he left for the hospital. “When we got here, the procedure was over. We were only 10-15 minutes behind the ambulance.”

Documentation shows it was actually 12 minutes from the time Maggie D’Angelo entered the doors of Morris Hospital until the time the lifesaving intervention was successfully deployed. It’s a statistic that’s referred to in the medical field as “door-to-balloon time” – a measurement of the amount of time it takes from a patient’s arrival at a hospital until the blocked artery is opened using balloon angioplasty. While 90 minutes or less is the recommended door-to-balloon time, the average at Morris Hospital is 57 minutes.  Prior to December 19, the hospital’s record was 23 minutes.

“Twelve minutes is phenomenal…it’s just unheard of,” says Mark Decker, Manager of Cardiovascular Services at Morris Hospital. “The sooner we can restore blood flow during a heart attack, the less damage to the heart muscle. We were already performing well below state and national average door-to-balloon times. Now we’ve set an even higher standard here at Morris Hospital.”

Maggie D’Angelo herself says the entire scenario was unbelievable. She remembers arriving at the hospital and being greeted by a team who was ready to take her immediately into the cath lab.

“It was just a like a television show,” she recalls.

Decker says one of the key factors that expedites the care of heart attack patients is the ability of many area emergency medical services (EMS) providers to transmit EKG readings from the field to the hospital emergency room. That allows the emergency physician to determine whether a heart attack is taking place and assemble the heart team before the patient even arrives at the hospital.

In D’Angelo’s case, the EKG indicated the blockage was in her right coronary artery.  A Code STEMI was paged at the hospital, and the team was ready and waiting when D’Angelo arrived. Dr. Ari de la Hera, the cardiologist on call, was already in the hospital.

“On the EKG, it was very obvious that this patient was having a heart attack, so we brought her straight to the cath lab. The first picture we took was of her right coronary artery because that’s what the EKG indicated, and there it was,” explains Decker.

The next step in the procedure involved threading a catheter through the artery to the site of the blockage and then inflating a tiny balloon located on the tip of the catheter. That pushed the obstruction against the walls of the artery, and then a small wire mesh called a stent was placed at the site of the blockage to keep the artery open.

“I have never seen anything like this,” says Dr. de la Hera.  “A case being done in 12 minutes is spectacular. Across the board, it was a great team effort, beginning with Minooka EMS transmitting the EKG, to the emergency department calling the code and supporting the patient, to the cath lab team ready and waiting.”

D’Angelo says the paramedics from Minooka Fire Protection gave her a choice of hospitals. She selected Morris Hospital because the family was so pleased with the care her daughter received in the Family Birthing Suites last July.

A few days after the heart attack, the D’Angelo’s were looking forward to going home and celebrating Christmas with their children and grandchildren.

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