Call 9-1-1 first if experiencing heart attack symptoms

Researchers at Island Health have found that patients having a heart attack get faster access to life-saving treatment by calling 9-1-1

When a heart attack strikes, medical specialists know that “time is muscle.”

Researchers at Island Health have found that patients having a heart attack get faster access to life-saving treatment by calling 9-1-1 than by making their own way to hospital. Many patients hesitate to call 9-1-1 because they aren’t sure what is happening, or they don’t want to tie up emergency services.

“Patients must recognize that denial is a bit of the symptom complex with a heart attack,” says Island Health cardiac specialist Dr. Eric Fretz. “That 9-1-1 call and making sure they are transported quickly and directly to cardiac care can literally save their life if they truly are having a heart attack.”

When Gordon Anderson woke up early in October 2012, he had a feeling something was very wrong.

“I hesitated at first to call 9-1-1 because I didn’t know if my condition was serious enough. But I had spent years working as a first responder and I didn’t want to be one of those people who didn’t call for help right away and was sorry later,” he says.

Paramedics started treatment immediately and got him quickly to hospital. Quick intervention meant there was no lasting damage to his heart muscle. Island Health cardiac specialists recommend calling 9-1-1 immediately if someone has chest pain or other signs of a heart attack. BC Ambulance Service’s highly trained medical dispatchers and paramedics can initiate treatment immediately, which means patients get care much faster than by making their way to hospital on their own. In most circumstances, the faster appropriate care is begun, the better the outcome for patients with chest pain or other cardiac symptoms.

According to a recent Island Health study in Victoria, patients experiencing a heart attack who arrived via ambulance accessed life-saving treatment in 63 minutes compared to 114 minutes on average for those who made their own way to hospital.