One phone call activates the Heart Alliance Lifeline program.
"I think I’m having a heart attack” are the words that woke University City resident, Rebecca Glenn Ruth, on October 17 – words that no wife ever wants to hear from her husband. Now retired after 45 years of combined careers in education, Rebecca and Eugene Ruth, Jr. had been fly fishing and staying in an isolated cabin.
A chilling feeling when breathing awakened Eugene around 10 a.m. Fifteen minutes later; his left arm began to feel heavy. “He’s not an alarmist,” said Rebecca. “His skin color looked green and he felt clammy.” I couldn’t believe my husband was having a heart attack. This wasn’t part of our plan.”
Heart disease didn’t run in Eugene’s family. His cholesterol and blood pressure numbers were always normal, and he had never been hospitalized, that is until the age of 68.
Rebecca drove her husband 22 miles on back country roads to Salem Memorial Hospital. “He walked into the Emergency Department and told them he thought he was having a heart attack,” said Rebecca. In minutes, the physician confirmed a heart attack. With one phone call to the Missouri Baptist Medical Center ER, they activated the Heart Lifeline Alliance program.
Missouri Baptist’s Heart Lifeline Alliance program is the first of its kind in Missouri and was designed in partnership with the world’s largest air medical fleet, the Air Evac Lifeteam. The goal of the program is to transport heart attack patients from rural hospitals to Missouri Baptist’s cardiac cath lab, open up the blocked artery and reestablish blood flow to the heart. Research suggests that opening up a heart attack causing blockage with an angioplasty balloon and stent yields better results than clot-busting drugs. “Eight minutes after the phone call, the helicopter arrived,” said Rebecca. “They were out the door in a flash.” At Missouri Baptist, the cath lab team met the helicopter and wheeled Eugene immediately to the cath lab where John Groll, MD, cardiologist, opened his blocked artery. “During a heart attack, every minute that passes means losing heart muscle, “explained Dr. Groll. “Our 90-minute“door-to-balloon” standard reestablishes blood flow to the blocked artery within 90-minutes, resulting in minimal damage to the patient’s heart muscle. Balloon angioplasty and stenting are performed in the hospital’s state-of-the-art cardiac cath suite.”
The 90-minute clock begins the minute a patient enters our ER or a rural ER complaining of chest pain. ER physicians and specially trained nurses perform an EKG to confirm whether it is a heart attack. If confirmed, the Missouri Baptist ER alerts the cath lab staff and the patient is prepped for a balloon angioplasty. If not, the patient is moved to a special Chest Pain Center for observation.
When Rebecca arrived at Missouri Baptist, her husband’s artery was opened, he was resting comfortably in ICU, and he greeted his soul mate with a smile.“This program saved my husband’s life,” said Rebecca. “We were just so fortunate. He didn’t have to wait at all when he got to Missouri Baptist. They were right there, waiting for him, waiting to do what needed to be done. The staff was medically confident, as well as calm and personal. We’ve been in other hospitals where you think you’ll receive capable care, but that’s not always the case. The culture at Missouri Baptist, from the marvelous ICU nurses to the business office, was exemplary. I’ll call it the miracle program with people involved who are angelic.”