MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - The Mississippi County Hospital System is preparing to participate in a new and potentially lifesaving program for heart attack patients.
STEMI, which stands for (Specialized Teams Ensuing Myocardial Infarction Incidents), guarantees the admittance of heart attack patients to a facility with a heart-cath lab within 90 minutes of their arrival at the emergency room.
Emergency Room Doctor Boomi Nathan says you should never ignore chest pains. "It could just be heartburn, but you can not make that decision. Whenever you get chest pain you need to come to the E. R."
And the hospitals in Mississippi County see plenty of chest pain.
Connie Ash who is both an R. N. and Director of Clinical Services for the Mississippi County Health System says, "The two hospitals (Blytheville & Osceola) together see approximately 22 thousand patients a year in their emergency rooms. About a thousand of those come through with chest pain."
Doctors say you have about a 90 minute window to treat a serious cardiac problem. That means you are going to have to get quick transport to a hospital with a Catheter Lab to get life saving treatment. A Catheter is used to inject a dye into the vessels of the heart and a doctor can use an x-ray to find a blockage and clear it.
Dr. Nathan, "In that time if you are able to open the vessel you can get complete reversible treatment."
For small rural hospital staff it means finding a room and a cardiologist in surrounding area hospitals. That can take precious minutes. But for Mississippi county hospitals that may not be an issue much longer.
Chris Raymer is the Chief Nursing Officer for the County system. He explained what the STEMI program means to the hospitals.
"It's for priority treatment of heart attack patients." he said. "We get them here, we stabilize them, one phone call, they send a helicopter and they get them there within 90 minutes."
Another benefit, considering the size of Mississippi County and what could be a lengthy ambulance ride, is new training in symptom recognition for ambulance crews.
Ash, "They have the same capability of calling from the field to the cardiac center. And taking the patient to them if they are closer in that route." That means for those in South Mississippi County who are already close to Memphis, they can be taken right to Methodist.
Ambulance crew training and additional E. R. staff training will be held soon. The program is supposed to go on-line in May.
Over all, the STEMI program was designed for smaller hospitals that do not have cath labs and ultimately for patient survival.
Raymer, "Cells die every minute that you don't have blood to the heart tissue. So the quicker you get to a cath lab the less heart damage you have."