Immediate, effective care may save your life
High blood pressure troubled Louisvillian Mary Smith. She knew she should take her medication, but following the death of her husband last fall, she found it difficult to take the time to visit her doctor and get a prescription refill. But in May, Smith woke up with the classic signs of a heart attack. She felt constricted on the top of her body and was sweating profusely. Her neighbor insisted on calling 911.
"I didn't think it was a heart attack because the pain was on my right side," Smith said. Paramedics performed an EKG en route and transmitted it to Norton Audubon Hospital, which confirmed she was having an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack). William Schmidt, M.D., cardiology, was standing ready for Smith's arrival and accompanied her to the heart catheterization lab, along with a team of other hospital staff prepared for such emergencies.
The heart catheterization procedure showed one artery was blocked 100 percent. Dr. Schmidt performed a balloon angioplasty to clear the locked artery and added a stent to keep the artery open. Dr. Schmidt's lifesaving procedure that day set a record for heart catheterization procedures at Norton Audubon: 12 minutes from the time Smith rolled in the door until the blocked artery was reopened.
"When they took me into that cath lab, I felt like I was in a room full of angels," Smith said. "I know how lucky I am." Dr. Schmidt said people experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, arm pain and even sometimes throat tightness may be having a heart attack, even if they think their symptoms aren't serious.
"Do not try to diagnose yourself," Dr. Schmidt said. "And do not be in a state of denial. Get help as soon as possible."
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Smith's choice of hospitals may have saved her life. Norton Audubon Hospital has received the highest possible accreditation for chest pain treatment from the Society of Chest Pain Centers - Cycle III with PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention). Norton Audubon is the only hospital in the region and one of only three in Kentucky to achieve this designation.