The Chest Pain Team in Action
10 p.m. You're just sitting down to read when you feel an odd sensation in your chest: a heavy, squeezing pressure, a fullness under your breast bone.
10:10 p.m. The pressure increases and the pain becomes intense. You check your pulse. It's slow and unsteady. Suddenly, you feel weak, as if you're about to pass out. Your wife glances over at you, and notices the strange expression on your face. She asks you what's wrong, but you have trouble answering. Without hesitation, she hurries to the phone and dials 9-1-1.
10:16 p.m. A loud knock at the door heralds the arrival of the paramedics. Thanks to their training, they know the right questions to ask, and the appropriate tests to take as they lift you into the ambulance.
10:20 p.m. While transporting you to Methodist Hospital via ambulance, the paramedics use a portable electrocardiogram machine to conduct an EKG. This enables hospital staff to monitor your heart rhythm via satellite for early diagnosis. After conferencing by radio with the hospital's base station (emergency department), they inject you with medication to restore you heartbeat to a more normal rhythm.
10:31 p.m. Upon your arrival, emergency department staff leap into action. The on-call cardiologist reviews your EKG and symptoms and decides to perform an angiogram. He notifies the hospital's catheterization laboratory (cath lab) and the staff and equipment are readied.
You are wheeled from the emergency department into the nearby cath lab, where an angiogram is performed, in which dye is injected through the catheter (tube) inserted in the leg/groin area, and the arteries that supply the heart muscle. The cardiologist sees that one artery is 100 percent blocked, reducing flow to the heart muscle - a potentially fatal situation.
10:57 p.m. Based on his findings, the cardiologist recommends immediate angioplasty. Together, he and his specially trained team perform this life-saving procedure. Through the same catheter, he inserts a small balloon-like attachment and inflates it at the blockage site. As a result, the artery re-opens, and blood flow is restored to your heart muscle.
11:42 p.m. "Congratulations," the cardiologist announces. "The angioplasty was successful."
11:59 p.m. As you're wheeled to an adjacent room, you see your wife waiting, her face alight with an expression of relief.