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The Mission: A Lifeline to ND Heart Attack Victims

PHOTO: Ambulance crew. CREDIT: American Heart Association
PHOTO: Ambulance crew. CREDIT: American Heart Association
August 28, 2012

BISMARCK, N.D. - A major initiative to save the lives of heart attack victims in North Dakota is more than halfway to its goal. The American Heart Association says since Mission: Lifeline began one year ago September, new diagnostic equipment has now been added to the equipment in 81 rural ambulances in the state, with 64 to go.

Noelle Riehl at MedCenter One in Bismarck says the ability to get a diagnosis from the field will save time and lives.

"They're going to be able to, by the click of a button, transmit heart rhythm into the hospital, into our physicians. And those ERs are going to be able to diagnose a patient with an acute heart attack and be able to start the line of treatment that is needed for these patients that are coming to our facility."

What the ambulances are getting are new 12-lead ECGs, which fully graph heart activity through wires attached to the chest.

Riehl says the new 12-lead ECGs allow for the diagnosis of what's called a STEMI heart attack, in which there's acute blockage of an artery.

"There's a type of rhythm that normally appears when they are having a heart attack of a STEMI and that is how you are able to diagnose it is by the 12-lead ECG and, of course, with other clinical symptoms that evolve with a heart attack."

Riehl says when a person is showing signs of a heart attack, call 911 immediately, because every second counts in getting treatment as soon as possible.

"Every 15 minutes, a patient is losing vital heart muscle, and as that vital heart muscle is dying, reviving the patients will become less (possible) if that patient does stop breathing or their heart does stop."

The cost of the "Mission: Lifeline" project is about $7 million, two-thirds of which is being funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

All the equipment should be in place by the end of the year. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in North Dakota.

More information is at

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND