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Saving Lives: Improvements in Dallas Heart Attack Care

PHOTO: The American Heart Association says the Caruth Grant Initiative through the Communities Foundation of Texas helped fill equipment gaps for Dallas County EMS agencies and streamlined the protocol for heart attack care. L to R: Brent Christopher, Dr. Clyde Yancy, Nancy Brown, Midge LaPorte Epstein and Dr. John Warner. CREDIT: AHA
PHOTO: The American Heart Association says the Caruth Grant Initiative through the Communities Foundation of Texas helped fill equipment gaps for Dallas County EMS agencies and streamlined the protocol for heart attack care. L to R: Brent Christopher, Dr. Clyde Yancy, Nancy Brown, Midge LaPorte Epstein and Dr. John Warner. CREDIT: AHA
June 12, 2013

DALLAS - In a heart attack, minutes can make the difference between life and death - and in Dallas County, more people are surviving thanks to a major transformation to standardize care.

During the past two years, the Caruth Grant Initiative helped fill emergency equipment gaps and streamline protocols between hospitals and emergency responders. Dr. John Warner, chief executive at the University of Texas' Southwestern University Hospitals, said the effort has optimized patient care and improved response times.

"Time is of the essence when you're having a heart attack," he said, "and if you can get consistent information, you can move quicker, work to restore the heart's blow flow quicker and save lives."

The initiative included 15 Dallas-area hospitals and 24 EMS agencies. It was funded by a $3.5 million grant from the W.W. Caruth Junior Foundation to the American Heart Association through The Communities Foundations of Texas.

Among the initiative's successes, Warner said, is a more than 30-minute reduction in the time between the arrival of EMS and the removal of the blockage.

"That's a fairly big event because, every second, muscle is dying," he said. "Typically, saving 30 minutes improves survival in heart attacks by at least 1 percent. Your chance of dying goes down by at least 1 percent, which is a big number for heart-attack care."

Ed Woyewodzic of Richardson can attest to how the initiative is saving lives. He survived a heart attack in 2011, with the entire process of getting him to the hospital and unblocking his artery taking only 18 minutes. Woyewodzic said he feels better than he has in years, and credits the emergency responders' proper equipment and training.

"All the way to the hospital, they were diagnosing me with all their EKGs and doing their analysis," he said. "Dr. Wynne met me at the back door of the hospital, and they already had all the information they needed. To me, I've got a second chance at life that I wouldn't have had."

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in America - and in Dallas County alone, about 30 people a day suffer heart attacks.

More information is online at heart.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX