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Quick Intervention Saves Heart Attack Victims’ Lives

Image of Mark Hornberger

Mark Hornberger

On July 19, 2010, Mark Hornberger came home from work, sat down to write an expense report and was jolted by chest pain. Even though Mark admits the pain was “like getting hit in the chest with a ball,” he dismissed the warning signs, as many heart attack victims do. “I thought it would go away — I just didn’t have time. I took a few aspirin.”

Mark, 53, was having a heart attack, and he later learned the delay could have cost him his life. He waited 30 minutes before calling a neighbor, who called 9-1-1.

Paramedics whisked Mark to Overlake. There, in just 22 minutes, Joseph Condon, MD, a cardiologist with the Cascade Heart Clinic, inserted a tiny balloon-tipped catheter into his blocked artery and inflated the balloon to restore blood flow to Mark’s heart.

With heart attack patients, every minute is critical, and the speed of Overlake’s treatment beats national standards. “Door-to-balloon time” is the interval between a heart attack patient’s arrival at the hospital and the inflation of a balloon-tipped catheter to open a blocked artery. The procedure is called angioplasty.

The national “door-to-balloon time” standard is 90 minutes. Overlake’s Emergency Department and Cardiac Catheterization Lab (Cath Lab), however, gets the job done in 60 minutes on average, says Carolyn Holmes, RN, nurse manager of the Cath Lab. “We finish in less than 70 minutes consistently and haven’t hit 90 minutes or higher in over a year,” she says.

“The longer an artery is blocked, the greater the chance of not surviving. If Mark had stayed home, his chance of survival would have been severely reduced,” Dr. Condon adds.

The quickness of Mark’s treatment — 22 minutes — is an Overlake record, but it also matches a national one. The fastest published door-to-balloon time in the country is 22 minutes, according to Carolyn.

The reason for Overlake’s speed: a team approach involving highly skilled physicians and well-trained and experienced staff.

Overlake has spent great time and effort perfecting its protocol for treatment of heart attack patients. Staff and doctors review every step of the process. They analyze data and meet monthly to review patient records to learn where precious minutes may be gained.

Because 9-1-1 emergency responders call Overlake, begin treatment and notify the Cath Lab team while en route, those with heart attack symptoms should call 9-1-1 rather than have someone drive them to the hospital, Carolyn advises. Calling 9-1-1 is safest for patients and the quickest way to activate all of the resources they will need.

Thanks to Overlake’s quick intervention, Mark left the hospital the next day and returned to work in a week, much faster than average for heart attack patients. Mark’s heart shows no significant damage, another benefit of fast treatment.

His one regret is he didn’t call 9-1-1 sooner.

“You hear stories about long waits in emergency rooms, but it wasn’t like that. It was incredibly quick,” Mark says. “I was amazed at the fast, professional assessment and communication. It was really quite remarkable, and I am so grateful to all the staff for their expert care.”

For more information, please visit The Cardiac Center at Overlake on the Overlake Web site.

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