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Safety: Midway improves care for heart patients

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

For the most severe heart attacks Midway Fire and Rescue no longer takes patients to the emergency room. They go straight to the catheterization lab at Georgetown Memorial Hospital.

“That’s really kind of huge,” said Midway Chief Doug Eggiman.

It’s not only big enough to help save lives, but it has earned the fire department an award from the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Only two Heart Safe Community Awards are given each year. The other will go to Albuquerque, N.M.

The award is the culmination of a series of improvements to Midway’s emergency medical service and its community education programs. Last year, the department got 12-lead defibrillators and monitors for all its first response vehicles. “A paramedic can take a look at that and diagnose a heart attack and the type of heart attack,” Eggiman said.

The most serious involves a complete blockage of the coronary artery. Known as STEMI heart attacks, they can lead to damage of the heart muscle. “It’s one of the big focuses of everything heart-related,” Eggiman said. “Your’re trying to diagnose it quick.”

Placing advanced monitors on fire trucks means that firefighter-paramedics can make the diagnosis before an ambulance arrives. The paramedics notify the hospital, which assembles a response team to meet the ambulance at the cath lab.

The partnership with the hospital system and its chest pain committee has helped drive the improvements, Eggiman said. The department also has support from county government.

Midway also acquired a device that provides chest compression to heart patients. Eggiman said he had read studies about the device, known as a Lucas 2, but the results were even more impressive. “It’s perfect compressions every time,” he said. “Even in a moving ambulance.”

The Lucas 2 is kept on the battalion chief’s vehicle and taken to any heart-related call. Those are among the most common calls for service, Eggiman said.

Midway’s Heart Safe award was for communities under 100,000. Eggiman and Battalion Chief Brent McClellan will attend the association’s EMS conference next week outside Las Vegas to receive the trophy. The award will also cover half of their trip to the conference. “It’s been on the list of things we wanted to send people to,” Eggiman said. “I’m excited to meet our counterparts from Albuquerque. There may be some things they’re doing that we can bring back here.”

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