One Heart Beating

Donald Sensing‘s dad had a heart attack Sunday morning. Because he got to the hospital quickly, he’s doing fine.

Don photoblogs the event via x-rays of his dad’s heart during the infarction. His summary:

Speed is everything. From the onset of symptoms to dad’s arrival at the hospital was a little more than a half-hour. St. Thomas is close enough to dad’s home that it was more time-efficient for my mom to drive him than call an ambulance. But this isn’t true for everyone, of course.

The default answer is yes. If you wonder whether you are having a heart attack and should go to the emergency room, the answer is yes. It was fortunate for my father that his pain became severe quickly, leaving him in no doubt. This is not always the case. But if you are unsure, then go. The worst thing that can happen is that you live.

Don provides a list of warning signs and links to more information.

My own dad had two heart attacks, the first four years ago and the second three. After the second, he had a triple bypass that, so far, has forestalled a third attack.

I’d differ with Don on one thing: Call 911 and get an ambulance, regardless of how close you are to the hospital. My folks live maybe five-eight minutes away from the nearest ER but my mom called 911 anyway. It was the right call. Doing so has multiple advantages:

1. Ambulances can drive faster, safely.
1b. Ambulance drivers aren’t in a panic about someone they know facing a life-and-death situation and are thus unlikely to have an accident on the way to the hospital.
2. Ambulances carry EMTs with them that are trained to give immediate first aid and can administer treatment along the way.
3. Ambulance drivers arrive at the hospital knowing exactly what to do and get the patient to the proper place, stat. No wandering around to find the help desk and convince someone that you need to see a doctor RIGHT NOW.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Health,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Garys says:

    We HATE being called ambulance drivers. That aside, yyour comments were pretty accurate. However, going to the closest hospital isn’t always the best thing tto do. EMTs and paramedics in some areas will take a patient to the hospital that can best treat the patient, even if it’s a few minutes farther away.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Garys: Good point.

    What does one properly call the fellow driving the ambulance to distinguish him from other EMTs aboard?

  3. Garys says:

    In most cases, there is no distinction. I won’t go into the rather arcane art of how staffing levels are determined. However, it’s generally safe to refer to anyone on the ambulance as an EMT. There aredifferent levels of EMT, but technically even paramedics are EMTs.

  4. The yes or no on the ambulance can be a tough call. For my mom and dad, it came down to the fact that it was very early Sat. morning and they knew traffic would be very light. Plus the most direct route to the hospital was through non-main streets that don’t have much traffic even during the middle of the day.

    One doctor told us we should have called 911, another told us mom and dad did the right thing coming on their own immediately.

    Certainly from much farther from a hospital than my parents a 911 call would be first choice.

    Thanks for the link!