Chest Pain Scenarios
Calls for chest pain is common in EMS. Typically, a heart attack occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the heart, as this occurs the heart is not receiving the oxygen needed and the heart muscle begins to die. Depending on the individual or their medical history, signs and symptoms of a heart attack may vary. Chest pain can be a symptom of a variety of conditions and should not be ignored.
It's 3 a.m. and a crushing pain in the center of your chest awakens you. You become frightened, but then remember the juicy hamburger with the extra grilled onions that you ate for dinner and you console yourself by saying it has to be indigestion. You notice your left arm is numb and it seems to be stuffy and hard to catch your breath and boy is it hot, so hot you are sweating like crazy. Your wife awakens and a look of horror comes across her face as she sees how pale and sweaty you are. You tell her it is just an upset stomach and you stumble out of the bed toward the bathroom to retrieve an antacid.
Suddenly your wife hears a loud thud and runs to the bathroom to find you lying in the floor unconscious. She runs to the phone and calls 911. Within minutes, she hears the approaching siren and sees the red flashing lights. Paramedics enter the bathroom carrying boxes and bags full of advanced life support equipment. As the paramedics begin chest compressions, they attach you to an EKG machine. Your wife sees the paramedic shake his head and she sees the line on the monitor is flat.
Paramedics insert breathing tubes, IV lines, and give medication after medication. They load you onto the ambulance stretcher and roll quickly out the door still performing chest compressions. The ambulance pulls out of your driveway, lights and sirens blaring.
A nurse who escorts her to a small waiting room meets your wife at the Emergency Room door. Moments later a doctor enters the room and tells your wife you are dead. Massive heart attack he says.
This scenario happens too many times in our community. Most adults ignore the warning signs of a heart attack and try to blame pain and discomfort on other causes. This scenario could have ended so differently with a little common sense and by not denying or ignoring the symptoms of a heart attack.
Look at it Again
It's 3 a.m. and you are awakened in the middle of the night by a crushing pain in the center of your chest. You become frightened, but then remember the hamburger with extra onions that you ate for dinner and you console yourself by saying it has to be indigestion. You notice your left arm is numb, it seems to be stuffy and hard to catch your breath, and boy is it hot, so hot you are sweating like crazy. Your wife awakens and a look of horror comes across her face as she sees how pale and sweaty you are. Your wife makes you lie down in the bed and calls 911.
Within minutes, she hears the approaching siren and sees the red flashing lights. Paramedics enter the bedroom carrying EKG monitors and other advanced life support equipment. The paramedics introduce themselves to you and begin asking questions about your discomfort, past medical history and allergies. The paramedics perform a 12-lead EKG to the hospital while you lie in bed and administer a baby aspirin and medication to help with the chest pain. They also begin giving you oxygen. The paramedic reads the EKG and transmits the 12-lead EKG to the doctor who is waiting at the Emergency Department of your local hospital.
The paramedics tell you that the EKG shows some abnormality and they are going to continue give medications to prevent further heart muscle damage on the way to the hospital. You arrive in the hospital and taken directly to the Coronary Cath Lab where you are met by a team of doctors and nurses. Doctors perform a heart catheterization and use a balloon to clear an occluded coronary artery. Days later you are discharged and a new participant of a Cardiac Rehab program.
You return home to lead a normal life. Well, you might want to avoid all of those grilled onions on the hamburger next time.