“I told him how the pain was killing me and asked him to drive me to the hospital. He told me, ‘No, Dad. I’m going to call 911.’ That’s the first thing he did, and now I know it was the absolute best thing to do.” – Bill Zierse, heart attack survivor
How you get to the hospital (and which hospital you go to) matters
Every minute counts when you’re having a heart attack. The good news is healthcare begins as soon as the ambulance arrives. Bill Zierse speaks firsthand about the importance of calling 911 and getting to St. Mark’s Hospital – where impressively fast care saves lives.
Willem “Bill” Zierse flung another shovel of dirt over his shoulder as a sharp pain in the middle of his sternum shot deep into his chest. Earlier, he thought acid reflux caused the problem, but now he wondered if this was a heart attack.
Bill stopped digging the trench in his client’s yard and laid down to rest, but the pain intensified. He thought about driving himself to the hospital but couldn’t find the car keys. Thankfully, his son, Kelly, arrived on the scene.
How you get to the hospital matters
“I told him how the pain was killing me and asked him to drive me to the hospital,” Bill remembered. “He told me, ‘No, Dad. I’m going to call 911.’ That’s the first thing he did, and now I know it was the absolute best thing to do.”
Kelly serves as a detective for the West Jordan Police Department and has seen the damage done when people try to take care of emergency situations on their own. He recognized that his father needed the expert care, medication and teamwork that emergency transportation can provide.
I had a choice and said, “Take me to St. Mark’s Hospital”
Within minutes the ambulance and firetrucks arrived armed with the experts, medication and equipment.
“The importance of calling 911 is to start medical care as soon as possible,” said Holly Burke, Director of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Relations at St. Mark’s Hospital. “Our EMS providers can conduct a diagnostic 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) to learn if a patient is having a heart attack … Then, while the paramedics transport the patient to the hospital, the hospital teams prepare to receive the patient. Together, they shave minutes off how long the blood vessels are occluded.”
The paramedics performed an EKG on Bill and confirmed a heart attack. They then administered aspirin, pain medication and nitroglycerin to open blood vessels and improve blood flow. Plus, they alerted the hospital of Bill’s condition and impending arrival. They accomplished all this while getting Bill to the hospital of his choice.
“The paramedics told me which hospital was closest and asked which hospital I wanted to go to. They asked twice. Each time I said, ‘Take me to St. Mark’s Hospital.’ …Why? I had a total knee replacement surgery at St. Mark’s Hospital years before, and the way the nurses treated me was what first came to mind when I had the heart attack. I knew I wanted that type of care,” Bill said.
Every minute counts: Record-breaking fast care saves lives
As the paramedics whisked Bill into St. Mark’s Hospital, the hospital’s heart team sprang to action.
“The hospital knew I was coming, and they had everything ready. There wasn’t any waste of time. Some people gave me an IV while others took off clothes. Everybody had a job to do, and everybody was doing their job well as they rushed me to the [cardiac catheterization] lab,” Bill said.
Bill’s left anterior descending artery had a 100 percent blockage, meaning he suffered from a massive heart attack commonly referred to as the widow-maker. Only 6 percent of patients who go into cardiac arrest outside the hospital with a widow-maker survive.
Speed proved to be an important factor in Bill’s survival. It took only 53 minutes from the time Kelly called 911 to the time Bill’s blocked artery was opened in the cardiac catheterization lab.
“That’s what saved my life. They got me through in 53 minutes! It’s fantastic! I think that’s why I’m still here,” Bill said.
It’s also important to note that it took a mere 19 minutes from when Bill entered St. Mark’s Emergency Room doors to the time his blood flow was restored. The nationwide benchmark sits at 90 minutes.
“It’s an amazing example of the quick and quality teamwork between the EMS providers and St. Mark’s Hospital. They are our partners in healthcare, and we whole-heartedly trust them; and that’s how we are able to provide the best care possible for our community,” Holly said.
Heartfelt thanks for heart-restoring care
Within the Cardiac Cath Lab, Bill received three stents to open and restore blood flow in his blocked artery. After the procedure, he spent a couple more days at St. Mark’s Hospital recovering.
Today, Bill continues healing through healthy habits like exercising daily, attending physical therapy every other day and eating a heart-healthy diet.
Recently, Bill and his wife of 50 years, Pattie, reunited with the physicians and EMS team to say thank you for their fast-acting, life-saving care.
“That was a special day. This all happened because of how well and how fast the EMTs and St. Mark’s Hospital worked together. They saved my life! I’m forever grateful,” Bill said.
If you are experience a medical emergency, call 911 immediately. Find an ER near you at www.stmarksER.com.