Heart attack survivor knows importance of speedy treatment

  • Thursday, July 10, 2014

His symptoms started with nausea, which Keith Lavender thought was due to a drop in his blood sugar. He stopped his yard work for lunch, but one bite into his sandwich, the sledgehammer-like pain in his chest hit. He started to sweat and was short of breath. “I realized what was going on,” recalls Lavender, 51, about the life-changing episode nearly two-years ago. “I knew I was having a heart attack, so I grabbed a handful of aspirin and called 9-1-1.” When a heart attack strikes, a finely tuned emergency response system can make the difference between life and death. For Lavender, time was especially critical because of the severity of his blocked artery and the remote location of his home in the Colleton County town of Round O. “Mr. Lavender’s case is a good example of the tremendous coordination that happens with EMS, hospital emergency departments, the cardiologists and the catheterization lab,” says Dr. William Yarbrough, Trident Health’s medical director for cardiovascular services. Trident Health’s records establish the following timeline of events on that day in September 2012: EMS does an electrocardiogram (EKG) in the field at 2:25 p.m. that confirms Lavender is having a severe heart attack. Response teams for Colleton Medical Center (CMC), Trident Medical Center (TMC) and the Lifenet Air Medical Transport are alerted immediately. Lavender arrives at CMC’s emergency department at 2:30 p.m., and measures are taken for immediate transport by helicopter to TMC in North Charleston. However, he becomes unresponsive due to cardiac arrest, has to be shocked three times to restore his heart rhythm and placed on life support. By 3:16 p.m., the Lifenet helicopter team flies him to TMC. At 3:49 p.m., he arrives at TMC’s catheterization lab, where the catheterization lab team clears Lavender’s blocked artery by 4:13 p.m. “Once his artery was opened, he became stable,” recalls Dr. Yarbrough. For Lavender, who remembers the lifesaving shocks as well as the sway of the helicopter ride, it was a profound experience that brought him “back to God.” He understands how important the speed of his treatment was to his survival. A friend of his who suffered the same kind of heart attack died as a result, he says. In contrast, Lavender went home after five days in the hospital, and with guidance from Dr. Yarbrough and staff at Trident Health’s Heart Failure Clinic, he eats better, exercises and continues to stay away from a past smoking habit. This June, TMC was recognized as achieving the Mission: Lifeline Bronze award for implementing specific quality improvement measures outlined by the American Heart Association for treating patients who suffer a severe heart attack. “We are pleased to be recognized for our dedication and achievements in cardiac care, and I am very proud of our team,” said Allison Walters, AVP of Cardiovascular Services at Trident Health. It is the latest of several national recognitions that Trident Health’s heart team has received not only for speed and effectiveness of initial treatment but also the quality of follow-up care. In its continued efforts to help cardiac patients after they leave the hospital, Trident Health is currently launching Care Assure, which provides nurse navigators to help schedule follow-up appointments and address questions and concerns. For a free physician referral or health questions, please call 843-797-3463.   Callout: “Mr. Lavender’s case is a good example of the tremendous coordination that happens with EMS, hospital emergency departments, the cardiologists and the catheterization lab.”  

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