Update HSHS to remain in-network for Illinois Aetna click here to read more

When chest pain occurs, dial, don't drive

February 16, 2023 

Do you know what to do if you or someone else is having a heart attack?

Hopefully you automatically answered, "Call 911."

According to the American Heart Association, there are more than 356,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) annually in the U.S., with nearly 90% of them being fatal. Some of these could be prevented if crucial emergency medical treatment wasn’t delayed. On average, many Americans wait two hours or more before seeking medical attention for heart attack symptoms, and far too many heart attack patients drive themselves or have a family member drive them to the hospital.

During American Heart Month, Prairie Heart Institute at HSHS Good Shepherd is working to reduce this statistic by reminding the public: “Dial, Don’t Drive.”

Prairie Heart medical experts explained that when experiencing the signs of a heart attack, every second saved can mean the difference between irreversible heart damage or a treatable condition, and even life or death. By dialing 911 first, treatment begins the moment emergency responders arrive.

That's important because minutes matter with a heart attack. Here's why: A heart attack happens when blood flow to a section of heart muscle is abruptly blocked. If blood flow isn't rapidly restored, the affected muscle begins to die. Acting quickly can prevent or limit damage to the muscle—and save your life.

By calling 911 to get EMS professionals, they and other first responders can:

  • Assess your situation immediately
  • Administer treatment in the ambulance
  • Communicate with the hospital while en route, ensuring hospital emergency and cardiac teams will be waiting and ready for your arrival
  • Effectively speed the time from heart attack symptom to treatment

Calling 911 is crucial to helping start processes at the hospital emergency room to get you live-saving treatment faster. HSHS Good Shepherd is part of the Stat Heart Program, coordinated by Prairie Cardiovascular, which streamlines emergency care to meet and even exceed the goal of providing angioplasty (a non-surgical procedure to treat diseased arteries) within 120 minutes from a patient's arrival at their community hospital. By utilizing best practices, Good Shepherd's emergency department's staff are able to identify, treat, and transfer heart attack patients quickly to HSHS St. John's Hospital in Springfield. This allows patients to receive emergent heart intervention by a Prairie Heart cardiologist as quickly as possible, saving heart muscle and increasing a patient's chance for full recovery.

Every heart attack is different, but common symptoms include:

  • Pressure in the chest or arms. It can feel like an uncomfortable pressure, fullness, pain or squeezing.
  • Other upper body discomfort. It can affect one or both arms or the back, neck, jaw, shoulder or stomach
  • Shortness of breath. This may occur on its own or with chest discomfort
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat or feeling nauseated or light-headed. 

When you experience these or other symptoms, or feel you may be having a heart attack, time is critical. Even if you're not quite sure you're having a heart attack, call 911 and get yourself checked out. In the case of a possible heart attack, this old cliché is always true: It's better to be safe than sorry.

To learn more about the warning signs of a heart attack, visit heart.org/heartattack.

When chest pain occurs, dial, don't drive