Too many people put their lives at risk driving themselves to the hospital when they’re experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. Indeed, only 30 percent of patients who come to JFK Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Room complaining of chest pain come by ambulance. But reducing the time it takes to get medical treatment is the primary factor in surviving a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association. Here’s the 1-2-3 of what happens when you call 9-1-1:
- Emergency dispatchers can provide immediate steps to take, such as instructing bystanders on the use of CPR.
- Emergency responders can begin patient assessment and treatment on site as well as en route to the hospital.
- At the hospital, the Emergency Room is already prepared for your arrival with the next level of care.
“I knew a cardiologist back home in Boston who was having chest pain and had his wife drive him. He didn’t make it to the hospital,” said Kathleen Laferriere, JFK’s chest pain coordinator.
Why do so many people put themselves (and others) at risk? “I think it’s embarrassment,” said Laferriere. “People don’t want their neighbors to know.”
Others may fear the police will come when they call 9-1-1, but the Riverside County Sheriff’s department said usually only paramedics and emergency medical technicians respond to health emergencies. If police do appear on the scene, the Sheriff’s department said, “deputies … are trained first responders in CPR and first aid. The Sheriff’s Department would also like to remind the public that employees of the Sheriff’s Department do not enforce Federal Immigration Law and make no consideration or decision concerning a person in need of medical assistance, or their immigration status while responding to an emergency call. During the response to a medical emergency, deputies consider the preservation of life and the safety of the community.”
Another concern may be the cost of the ambulance service, but several desert communities provide a subsidy, so if you live in an incorporated city, check with your city clerk. Beyond that, Laferriere notes, “How much is your life worth?”
For stroke, delayed treatment could end up costing a lot more than an ambulance ride. “Stroke is the leading cause of disability for adults. If you can get treatment soon, sometimes all of those symptoms will be reversed through the treatment. Even if they’re not reversed, they might not be as severe. But if you don’t get early treatment you can be paralyzed, unable to speak or unable to swallow,” said Laferriere, who has seen cases of stroke in victims as young as their 30s.
Learn to recognize chest pain symptoms by taking the free Deputy Heart Attack course online at www.deputyheartattack.org. And don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 for any medical emergency.