OSF St. Joseph Medical Center

Bloomington, Illinois

Don't Drive - Call 911.

Dialing 911 is a call you never want to make; however, when it comes to heart attacks and strokes, every second counts. People commonly have several reasons for not calling 911. They may not want to bother first responders, they are close enough to drive themselves to a hospital, or may not think they need immediate medical attention, and the list goes on.

But, calling 911 instead of driving yourself, or a loved one, to a nearby emergency department can be the difference between life and death. Quick treatment can help limit damage to the brain or heart and increase the chance of a full recovery.

Your Care Begins with a Call

Your care truly does begin with a call. It is imperative to call 911 when you or a loved one are experiencing heart attack or stroke symptoms.

When the call is made, an emergency medical dispatcher will provide pre-arrival instructions until the first responders arrive and gather information and symptoms. Paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are also trained with lifesaving techniques they can use if needed.

According to the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association, 50 percent of people drive themselves to the hospital when heart attack and stroke symptoms are present. Nationally and locally, the average time from arrival to treatment is significantly reduced by ambulance.

Once first responders have assessed the patient, they contact the hospital emergency department informing them of a possible heart attack or stroke patient. While in route to the hospital, paramedics alert medical staff to begin preparation for arrival, thus saving time.

They will arrange medical equipment, specific treatment rooms or labs, and specialists and staff are brought together. If someone drives on their own, the hospital has no prior information on the patient, unlike arriving by ambulance.

Hospital staff will then need to assess the patient and determine if a heart attack or stroke is present, before treatment can begin. Another danger of driving yourself: you place yourself and others at risk if you were to lose consciousness.

OSF St. Joseph Raises the Bar in Patient Care

At OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, we are taking steps to advance our heart attack and stroke care. We’ve made process improvements through collaboration with different organizations such as OSF Saint James – John W. Albrecht Medical Center in Pontiac, Illinois, and McLean County Area EMS.

Each month, our staff meets with these organizations to perform case reviews to evaluate our processes and determine if there is room for improvement. By enhancing our care at OSF St. Joseph, patients receive treatment faster. Decreased treatment times lead to less damage to the heart or brain, so our patients are less likely to have complications.

Stroke Care Recognition

The Joint Commission has designated OSF St. Joseph a primary stroke center, the only one in McLean County. This is a rare distinction for hospitals providing neuroscience care. OSF St. Joseph also received the American Stroke Association Achievement Award for our use of evidence-based guidelines to provide the best possible care to patients.

Heart Attack Care Recognition

When a patient arrives at a hospital with heart attack symptoms, national standards state patients should receive surgical intervention in 90 minutes or less. This is recorded as "door to balloon" time, meaning from the time patients arrive at the hospital, whether by ambulance or by themselves, to the time the blockage in their coronary artery is opened.

At OSF St. Joseph, our staff meets and exceeds an internal goal of 60 minutes -- 30 minutes faster than national standards. As part of our improvements, we received the American Heart Association's Mission: Lifeline Bronze Quality Achievement Award .

Therapeutic Hypothermia Treatment

Therapeutic hypothermia treatment, also known as cardiac cooling, can improve a heart attack patient's chances at a full recovery. The therapy is for adults age 18 and older who have been quickly and successfully resuscitated following cardiac arrests. In this situation, they have regained their pulse and blood pressure, but are still unresponsive.

A cardiac cooling blanket which is filled with cold water is placed on the patient's body. The blanket causes the patient's body temperature to drop to 94 degrees. After 24 hours or when physicians deem the patient ready, the patient's body is gradually re-warmed. The re-warming process can take up to six hours.

Cooling the body decreases the release of chemicals that cause injury to the brain and the consumption of oxygen by the brain. It also reduces the amount of acid in the brain, allowing neurons to stabilize, thus, helping to preserve brain function.

Know the Symptoms

As vital as it is to call 911, it is equally important to know the symptoms of heart attacks and strokes . Brain and heart damage can begin within minutes, and the longer it takes for a patient to receive treatment, the more the muscle or brain is damaged.

For more information on the importance of calling 911 when heart attack or stroke symptoms are present, please call our OSF Cardiovascular Services Leader at (309) 665-5709 or our OSF Neuroscience Leader at (309) 665-4904.