GLASGOW, KY (WBKO) -- "And it felt like somebody was setting on my chest pushing the air out of me and I was smothered," said 49-year-old Tony Ervin. Tony hadn't gone to work that day. He had felt this way before, but like so many men, he had just tried to "tough it out." He should have known better.
"And in my family history," said Tony, "heart attacks, it's big time. My dad died at 53, heart attack. My brothers just had open heart surgeries. Sister's had stints put in. All the history is there. And that's what really got me concerned, you know."
So Tony finally called his wife, Tammy, at work.
"So I came home and we didn't even stop," said Tammy Ervin. "He met me at the garage and said, 'It's time to go.' And it was SCARY."
So they drove from Glasgow to The Medical Center in Bowling Green.
"People started working on him and it was just, it was just 'Bam!'' said Tammy. "It was just quick, I mean, fast, efficient."
"They were just super at the Medical Center," added Tony. "They were 'Johnny on the spot' you know. Super."
Then, just like in my story, they administered baby aspirins to Tony.
"What hit my mind when they give me the baby aspirins," he said, "I'd actually seen that on WBKO, where the doctor was telling about baby aspirins could save your life of a heart attack or whatever."
"And my nurse actually approached me," said CCU Clinical Manager, Michelle Marshall, "and told me he had come to the hospital because he saw our initial segment on WBKO about recognizing chest pain, having aspirin in your home, and the importance of getting to the hospital as quickly as possible."
Michelle also talked to Tony, "He told me that he had seen the segment and he realized that the pain he had been experiencing for the last couple of days was probably a heart attack. And so he told his wife that she needed to go get some aspirin, and so she went and got some aspirin and they went to the emergency room after that. We were able to identify what his issue was, and with Dr. Emanuele's help, were able to reconcile that problem."
"It was your piece," said Dr. Tullia Emanuele, "that made him think a little bit more about it, and convinced them to come in."
"We had a big influx of heart patients after that segment," added Michelle, "so we never know if that's just coincidence or if that was directly attributed to the segment that everybody saw on television., but we hope that the message got out."
To make sure the message got out, we re-aired the original segment Tony and Tammy saw this past February, so you'll know what to do if you're ever faced with someone having a heart attack. Both my original story and the one about Tony and Tammy are attached to this story.
And listen to this! Tony's wife, Tammy also suffered a heart attack exactly 5 weeks after Tony's, on her son's wedding day. She also tried to "tough it out" because she didn't want to miss the occasion. She got to the hospital in time, and both Tammy and Tony are doing fine.
Here is the script from my original story, "Surviving a Heart Attack," that ran in February.
It describes a drill the Medical Center periodically goes through, to sharpen its skills.
"Medical Center EMS. Is this an emergency or for immediate transfer to the ER?"
"Uh, I guess it's kind of an emergency. I'm at the Corvette plant and there's a guy here having, he thinks he might be having a heart attack."
But what are the symptoms of a heart attack?
"Pressure chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, vomiting."
Also pain in your arm, jaw, stomach or shoulder blade, difficulty breathing, or severe weakness. So after noticing the symptoms and calling 911 doctors say the patient should take 4 baby aspirin. But don't just swallow them! "Chew 'em. Chew 'em up."
Doctors say aspirin can literally "save your life" by buying you precious time to open the blocked artery.
Emergency Medical Dispatch activates the EMS crew as soon as the call comes in, and the information you give while you're still on the phone is relayed to them while they're en route. That's why doctors say "Never drive yourself or have anyone else drive you," because if you don't call 911, you can't relay vital information to the EMS crew, and your condition might get worse if you try to drive yourself.
Once the ambulance arrives, paramedics take an EKG and wirelessly transmit it to the Medical Center. While you're en route in the ambulance, the emergency room will see the heart attack indications on your EKG, notify a cardiologist, and activate the Cath Lab where you will be treated.
Once you get to the Medical Center, the emergency room doctor will quickly check to see if your condition is "stable" and you'll be taken to the Cath Lab. There, a team of doctors and nurses will inject a catheter into your heart through which they will inject a dye to show your blood flow. Doctors then insert a balloon at the site of the blockage... the blockage is cleared, and the blood flows freely to the entire heart. The patient's life Is saved.
The national standard for hospitals in the United States is that blood flow in the blocked artery be restored in less than 90 minutes from the time the patient enters the door of the hospital. Drills like these have the Medical Center's time down to 48 minutes.
"It really won't make a difference if you read about it in the newspaper," says emergency room Dr. William Ross, "but it makes a difference when it's your father, ya know, because it's easy to read about it in a paper and say, 'Oh we got this that's great.' But when it's your family member that's had a heart attack, rather than having a bad outcome, they get to go home the next day, that's pretty impressive."
More than 300,000 Americans died from heart failure last year.
But you can make that number drop!
Know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack
And chew four baby aspirin to increase your chances of survival.