Your heart is in good hands

In 102 minutes, Carl Cline's life changed forever.

Cline, 67, of Newton, experienced a life-threatening heart attack. If it was not for his emergency phone call, he might not have survived.

When Cline started to feel pain, he called 9-1-1 and an ambulance was at his house in 2.5 minutes.

"It was like clock work," Cline said, of the EMS responders who assisted his medical condition. "I had (the heart attack) at the 87th minute."

Because of the quick response and knowledge of the paramedics on the scene, when Cline's body went into a cardiac arrest, he was in the presence of a doctor.

"It was so quick," Cline said. "The doctor was right there when it happened, and I have no damage (from the heart attack)."

Today's technology allowed paramedics to send Cline's telemetry to the hospital before his arrival in the emergency room, and call a phone number to contact a cardiologist. Within 15 minutes of Cline's heart attack, he was stable.

"In this case, I think the EMS personnel made the difference, and that I thought to call 9-1-1," Cline said, adding it was an area Frye Regional Medical Center-sponsored Rotary program that taught him to call 9-1-1 instead of trying to transport himself to a hospital, which could've changed the outcome of the fatal heart attack he experienced.

Cline spoke during a Mission Lifeline program Monday in the Dunbar Building at Catawba Valley Community College. The program, sponsored by the American Heart Association, focused on STEMI Care and included medical personnel from Catawba, Alexander, Caldwell and Burke counties. A STEMI or ST-elevation myocardial infarction is a severe heart attack with complete blockage to the heart's largest area.

Regina Fleenor, N.C. Mission Lifeline director, said the program was offered to regional medical employees to continue to enhance the skills of all people involved in heart emergencies.

From the onset of a heart attack when a patient calls 9-1-1, EMS arrives and evaluates the patient by asking appropriate questions to determine the severity of the heart condition. EMS personnel then transport the patient to the principle hospital with a lab specializing in cardiac catheterization, which is Frye Regional Medical Center. Catawba Valley Medical Center has a cath lab, but it is not a 24/7 operation.

"The goal is to (complete the steps) in less than 90 minutes," Fleenor said. "An important key factor is for someone to recognize they are having a heart attack."

In order for STEMI patients to have success and survive a possible fatal heart attack, Mission Lifeline trains all medical personnel to ensure everyone with heart issues receives a punctual response. For Monday's training session, 105 people registered, including paramedics, nurses, physicians and students.

Dr. James Jollis, a physician cardiologist at Duke University, was on-site Monday as the keynote speaker for the training class. Jollis was instrumental in bringing the STEMI response protocol to North Carolina, which is a career-long goal that came forth in the last five years.

"In a single protocol, we want to treat heart attacks," Jollis said. "In one day, we will teach how to diagnose a heart attack. Paramedics and nurses can make the call to a cardiologist (for STEMI patients)."

April Traxler, RACE coordinator at Frye Regional Medical Center, said teamwork is key to saving lives of STEMI patients.

"From the frontline people to the ER and to the cath team, it's unbelievable," Traxler said. "Teamwork is vital."

By hosting the STEMI training in Catawba County, area paramedics and nurses, who didn't have the knowledge to identify a STEMI, now have the ability to save more lives.

"(It's) made a difference," Traxler said. "(Before), EMS couldn't do a thing. Paramedics really have taken ownership of this."

Currently, emergency medical personnel complete the STEMI process within an hour and an hour and a half, Traxler said.

To give participants first-hand experience, the group dissected pig hearts Monday to explore the heart's muscle and the electrical pathways.

"The real emphasis is how fortunate we are in Catawba County to have a county to be able to (have this program and training)," Cline said. "We are blessed with two first-class hospitals."