As a paramedic in southeastern North Carolina, Tim Pike knows first hand the lifesaving protocols and excellent medical care found at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. What he didn’t know is that he would some day need them himself.
“When the third chest pain hit, I knew I had a problem,” said the 52-year-old, recalling the heart attack he suffered while on duty in nearby Jones County. Getting advanced cardiac care fast to open blocked vessels would be a must to save Pike’s life.
Enter New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Code STEMI protocol, a hospital alert system that quickly notifies the emergency room physician, cardiologist, and cardiac interventionist about a patient whose electrocardiogram (EKG) shows a heart attack is in progress.
“Code STEMI (ST-segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction) is a proactive, dynamic, and collaborative effort between the region’s physicians, EMS and cardiac care professionals to get heart attack patients highly specialized care fast,” says Claire Corbett, NHRMC’s AMI and stroke programs manager. “Since the program’s inception in 2008, almost 2,000 patients from across the region have benefited from the protocol.”
The national benchmark for treating STEMI patients – from emergency room to invasive cardiac treatment – is 90 minutes. At NHMRC’s Heart Center, that number has been lowered to 44 minutes.
“It was one of those days with a heat index of 105 degrees,” said Pike, who on the day of his heart attack had been called to extinguish a house fire. “We were suited up and pulling the hoses off the truck, and that’s when my chest pain began.”
In the business of saving lives, Pike knew the reality of his worsening situation: “I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not. In my job, I go to several emergency calls where people don’t make it.”
That grave reality changed, however, when – through the efforts of fellow paramedics on-site with Pike – AirLink, NHRMC’s air ambulance service, airlifted Pike from Holly Ridge to NHRMC in just eight minutes.
Time was of the essence, as chances for death or disability in heart attack patients increase significantly if treatment is not received right away, say experts.
“Everything fell into place,” said Pike. “They got me in the catheterization lab, saw where the blockages were, opened them up and stented them. The process could not have been better.”
Not until Pike’s vessel blockage is revealed, however, does the power of a program like Code STEMI – and the fragility of Pike’s condition – truly come home: “In my right coronary artery I had two blockages – one 98 percent, the other 75 percent.”
“Code STEMI and New Hanover Regional Medical Center saved my life,” said Pike, who three weeks later was back doing 100 percent of what he was doing before his heart attack, including being a proud grandfather.
“I’ve got a little grandson who’s a year and a half old,” said Pike. “This gives me the opportunity to spend more time with him … and help him grow up to be big and tall like me.”
The NHRMC Heart Center is among the state’s leaders in cardiac care. Recently, the Heart Center was recognized with two prestigious awards from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology for the second year in a row. They are:
For more on these awards and the NHRMC Heart Center, visit www.nhrmc.org/heart.