Heart to Vital Heart
As a young graduate paramedic fresh out of school, working night shifts in Edmonton made me feel like the king of the night-time world. The buzz of the city, the flashing lights and that cool summer breeze are burned into my memory forever.
It was an exciting career choice; I felt proud to be able to respond to someone who needs my help, to use my training to improve their quality of life, to ease their pain and, even in some cases, save a life. I loved the challenges; no two days were ever the same. While we could do so much, there was always a hunger to be able to do more.
Looking back on the early 1990s, as a group we were fairly limited by our equipment: our primitive cardiac monitors, our small armament of medications, rather conservative protocols and a virtual paucity of research into our field of Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
Today, I can honestly say — we’ve come a long way, baby.
In early 1999, a fresh group of cardiologists in Edmonton brought forward a vision to improve the overall care of heart-attack patients — why not treat them before they even arrive at hospital?
We studied hard. We learned new skills and acquired new medications. As electronics evolved, new cardiac monitors allowed us to communicate directly with cardiologists. By 2006, a collaborative effort between EMS, Cardiology services, and the Emergency Departments gave rise to a new era of heart-attack care, appropriately named, The Vital Heart Response.
This program expanded rapidly to encompass all EMS systems across Northern Alberta — and we’re now working tirelessly to extend this capability to all Albertans in the coming months. Today, ambulances are equipped with life-saving diagnostics and medications as their crews communicate directly with cardiologists. All of this expertise is at your fingertips, available to you, if you only touch three simple buttons on your smart phone.
9 -1 - 1
Which begs the question: why would anyone drive themselves into an emergency department or local doctors’ office? A heart-attack victim may only have moments to stay awake or alive; behind the wheel of your automobile is not the place to be.
The Vital Heart Response system is available to you 24/7. Simply dial those three numbers and paramedics can diagnose and, in some cases, stop your heart attack — and do the driving for you!
As a paramedic, I’ve treated heart attack patients with this system. I’ve educated others and written clinical protocols for it. Now, I’m manager of this program. For me, Vital Heart Response has truly come full circle; I have seen and can say firsthand: It does indeed save lives and better the outcomes for so many with heart disease.
So the next time you or a loved one feels pain the chest, jaw, neck or shoulder…. Will you grab your keys? Or will you reach for your phone?