Saving a Life-Saver
Hennepin EMS paramedics respond to a variety of scenes for emergency calls – often the same ones as the Minneapolis Fire Department. On Saturday, September 29, 2018, paramedics Stephanie Young and Derek Smith were in their ambulance at Minneapolis Fire Station No. 22 when they received a call to a very familiar address.
“I recognized it as Fire Station No. 8 near Whittier Clinic,” said Young. “We know the guys there and my heart just sank. When we arrived we found Captain Colm Black waiting for us on the ‘launch pad’ where the fire trucks go out.”
All Hennepin EMS ambulances carry cardiac monitors with 12-lead ECG capability – the gold standard used to screen, identify and evaluate patients with chest pain. Hennepin EMS paramedics use these devices every day and were one of the first EMS systems in the country to have the ability to activate the cardiac cath lab from the scene so that no time is wasted to care for patients when a blocked vessel is indicated. This improves survival rates – and survival rates with better cognitive outcomes. In fact, HCMC has some of the best door-to-open-vessel times in the country.
“I woke up with some chest and arm pain, but attributed it to some lifting I was doing the night before, so I went to work anyway,” explains Captain Black. “My colleagues said I looked terrible and insisted that I get checked out, so I called 911.”
After having him get on a stretcher, asking him about his symptoms and placing the 12-lead, Young read the results which she describes did not “scream out myocardial infarction,” but based on the combined family history and other symptoms he reported she determined it was likely he was experiencing a posterior myocardial infarction.
“Where would you like to go, Colm?” she asked Black, whom she had known for more than 15 years.
“Let’s go to Hennepin,” he responded.
Young called HCMC to activate the cath lab, where a blockage was eventually removed from one of Black’s coronary arteries. After a 3-day hospital stay, he was discharged to a comprehensive outpatient cardiac program for ongoing care and support. He was back to work firefighting within 6 weeks.
“Colm has no permanent damage thanks to the quick response, cath lab activation, and care he received in the field, at the hospital and aftercare,” explains Young, who asserts that she was “just doing her job.” It’s one that she enjoys – especially the variety – but mostly when she can make a difference in someone’s life.
“Successful outcomes require a team effort. Firefighters understand this, and it’s why we work so well together at scenes to make sure patients get the best care possible,” said Young. “I’m so glad we didn’t lose a team member that day – and it’s great to see the entire station supporting Colm and motivating each other to do heart-healthy exercise.”
“Hennepin EMS saved my life. HCMC is one of the best – I go there for all of my healthcare,” explains Captain Black. “I can’t say enough about the great care I received.”
On Friday, January 18, 2019 WCCO 4 interviewed Captain Black and his team at Fire Station No. 8 about his recovery and the daily exercise plan that his colleague developed to keep everyone in shape:
It’s a great story of a life-savers life saved thanks to innovative technology, teamwork and a successful continuum of care. (And of course a paramedic “just doing her job.”)