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April 25, 2019
 

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Weekend doctor: when to call 911

for chest pain/stroke symptoms

By Cody Price, RN
Chest Pain/Stroke Program Coordinator with Blanchard Valley Health System
You or a loved one may have experienced pain or discomfort in your chest, possibly radiating into the jaw, arm or shoulder. These symptoms as well as shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting are all common warning signs that an individual may be having a heart attack.

Or, perhaps you or your loved one have experienced symptoms of stroke including:

  • Face drooping or numbness on one side.
  • Arm weakness or numbness on one side.
  • Speech that is slurred or difficulty speaking.

If so, these are all common warning signs that an individual may be having a stroke and it is: time to call 911.

While many people may have experienced these symptoms of heart attack or stroke, they do not always call 911.

According to the American Heart Association, in 2016 cardiovascular disease was listed as the underlying cause of death in approximately one out of every three deaths in the United States. The top two cardiovascular diseases making up that statistic are coronary heart disease and stroke.

Despite numerous efforts to inform the public, these two diseases continue to lead to high mortality rates and poor outcomes for patients.

What can you do to try to reduce these poor outcomes, improve the chance of recovery and receive emergency care as fast as possible? Call 911.

Calling 911 and activating the emergency medical services team is the quickest way to receive potentially life-saving treatment. You should call if you or someone around you experiences any of the above symptoms.

There are many reasons why individuals are hesitant to call 911, some of which include waiting to see if the symptoms dissipate, attempting to drive themselves to the emergency room because they believe it will save time, or not wanting to bother anyone by voicing their symptoms.

Additionally, many individuals may not want to ride in an ambulance for fear of treatment, cost or “wasting time.” The list continues.

Calling 911 is the most important action to take if the above symptoms of heart attack and/or stroke are present. When emergency medical personnel arrive to the scene of a call, many tasks occur “behind the scenes” to help the patient receive the highest quality care in as little time as possible.

First responders assess the patient and determine the cause of symptoms, whether it is attributed to heart attack, stroke or other medical emergency. Once this assessment is complete, first responders can begin to provide any immediate medical care necessary, safely and quickly transport the patient to the hospital, and call ahead to the emergency department to inform providers that a patient is on the way with a description of symptoms.

This also results in quicker treatment when you arrive at the hospital because different emergency alerts can be activated prior to your arrival. For example, if you are having chest pain, an electrocardiogram of your heart will be obtained immediately. If you are having stroke symptoms, a CT scan of your head will be completed immediately.

While many people still arrive at the emergency department by driving themselves, give yourself, your loved ones and even strangers the best chance at a positive outcome by activating emergency medical services. When in doubt, do not ignore your symptoms. Call 911 and receive an evaluation by a medical professional.