Every minute counts during a cardiac arrest, experts say.
The sooner the signs are recognized and life-saving procedures started, the better one’s chance of survival.
In Boyd County, the odds are good a cardiac-arrest patient will get critical care faster than in most other places because of ongoing collaborations between the public, health officials, first responders and local hospitals.
On Thursday, Boyd County was honored as a HeartSafe Community during a ceremony at King’s Daughters Medical Center.
Boyd is the fourth Kentucky community to earn the designation, which was created in 2011 by the Kentucky Department for Public Health in conjunction with the American Heart Association. HeartSafe Communities, according to the DPH, “meet a combination of factors viewed as preferable in a community’s ability to recognize and respond to a cardiac arrest.”
These factors include early access to emergency care in which bystanders recognize the symptoms of cardiac arrest and immediately dial 911 and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, defibrillation and advanced care delivered by a response vehicle staffed by advanced life support personnel.
Boyd achieved the designation through years of efforts dedicated to collaboration between agencies, advanced training for first responders, implementation of new technology and aggressive public education, in addition to KDMC’s own efforts to improve advanced cardiac procedures.
“This designation means we meet the stringent standards to promote and support the critical chain of events that occur around cardiac-arrest patients,” said KDMC CEO Fred Jackson.
Jackson said the designation has taken years to achieve, with efforts dating to at least 2006, when 12-lead EKGs were introduced into local ambulances and automated external defibrillation devices began being placed around the community.
These efforts, along with others implemented inside the hospital, have contributed to whittling down the time it takes for a cardiac event to be recognized and for a patient to have a blocked artery opened via a heart catheterization.
“We know that time is absolutely critical. ... They tell us every minute that is wasted or lost, seven to 10 percent of heart damage occurs within that time period,” Jackson said. “It is absolutely critical that speed and accuracy are effected well.”
“We would like to thank all of our first responders, public safety professionals, emergency medical services providers, King’s Daughters Medical Center and other trained community members who are working together to ensure our residents live in a HeartSafe Community,” said Boyd County Judge-Executive William “Bud” Stevens.
“We really don’t realize how important rapid access to life-saving treatments is at both prehospital care and our medical center,” he said.
In 2012, Boyd County first responders answered more than 1,400 calls for potential cardiac arrests, strokes and unresponsive patients, Stevens said, noting most of the patients were transported to KDMC.
“This award just validates that we are doing the right things for our community,” said Regina Stout, director of the Kentucky Heart Foundation, which applied for the designation. “It gave us an opportunity to bring recognition to the fact we do have these collaborations, that we are partners in the community.”
“It’s a bringing together of all the efforts we’ve made,” agreed Tom Adams, director of the Boyd County Emergency Medical Service. He said the award won’t stop the pursuit of even better technology and response times.
“It’s a constant, ongoing thing. We are constantly seeing where we can improve, seeing where the weak spot is, even if it isn’t weak, and making it stronger,” he said. “There are still devices and procedures that we look at and review and study to see if they fit into what we have.”
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached (606) 326-2653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.