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Honoring ND's 5000 EMS Workers: Transit and Treatment

PHOTO: This is Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week in North Dakota and health professionals are using the event to remind people that calling 911 is the fastest way to get life-saving treatment. Photo credit: American Heart Association
PHOTO: This is Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week in North Dakota and health professionals are using the event to remind people that calling 911 is the fastest way to get life-saving treatment. Photo credit: American Heart Association
May 19, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. - As the state's emergency medical services personnel are being honored this week, North Dakotans are being reminded how critical it is to call 911 in the case of a heart attack or other medical emergency. In North Dakota, currently about half of heart attack patients get to the emergency room by way of a private vehicle. Ken Reed, emergency medical services director, Rugby EMS, says while they may arrive a few minutes earlier, it means no treatment or care during transit.

"I can share from my own perspective a number of times where we've had a relative come into our waiting room distraught, asking for assistance, only to come to the car and find a victim who is already expired, because nothing was done for them during the 'fast ride' to the hospital in the private car," Reed says.

In addition to the treatment in transit, Reed says the EMS workers also alert the hospital so emergency room staff is ready and prepped as soon as the patient arrives.

"We've gone to great lengths to ensure that - especially in North Dakota - the ambulance is able to identify the heart attack via electrocardiogram, and to transmit that to the receiving hospital and to the cardiac care centers as well," he explains.

Symptoms of a heart attack can include shortness of breath, nausea, and discomfort or pain in the chest, arms or other areas of the upper body. The sooner a patient gets treatment, the better the odds of recovery - and that's also very true when it comes to stroke.

Staff physician Christopher Anderson, Essentia Health, Fargo, says neurological damage can mount with each passing minute, so it's important to act "FAST" upon onset of symptoms.

"We have this acronym 'F-A-S-T.' One of the symptoms of stroke is facial drooping, so that's what the 'F' stands for. 'A' is for arm weakness and 'S' is for speech difficulty. The 'T' is just to remind people that time is critical and to call 911 as quickly as possible," Anderson says.

Cardiovascular disease - including heart disease and stroke - is the leading cause of death in North Dakota and the United States.

More information about symptoms and prevention is online at www.Heart.org. EMS week details are at www.ndsc.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND