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Strom Thurmond Heart Attack Drill

By: Anne Waits
web posted March 14, 2014

JOHNSTON Students and visitors  at Strom Thurmond High School had an opportunity on Thursday morning to learn about heart attacks through a presentation and live simulation of a victim actually having a heart attack.

The Community Chest Pain Awareness Drill began at 11 a.m. and involved personnel from Air Med, Edgefield County Hospital, Edgefield EMS and University Hospital.

The drill began with Jennifer Weeks welcoming everyone and University Hospital cardiologist Mac Bowman giving some facts on heart disease.

"How many of you know someone or have relatives who have experienced a heart attack?" he asked.

About half the hands in the gym were raised.

"Not surprising," he said. "Heart disease causes a quarter of a million deaths in America annually. It is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States, more than all cancers combined. Twenty percent of heart attack victims die before reaching the hospital. After the heart goes into fibrillation, there is a limited amount of time before permanent damage is done to the muscle of the heart. If a large area is damaged, full recovery may not be possible."

Director of Strom Thurmond Career and Technology Center Arthur Northrop helped with setting up the screen, projector and presentation, Once the doctor began to speak, he stood over on the sideline. About five minutes into the presentation, Northrop began to appear anxious, grabbed his left arm and chest and began to breath heavily. The speaker seemed unaware and continued with the presentation. The "patient," (Northrop) walked toward the speaker as if to ask for help when suddenly he slumped to his knees and then passed out.

"This is a critical time," said Bowman. "Call 911 IMMEDIATELY if this happens."
He encouraged students to learn basic CPR and to learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

"It might not affect someone you know, but perhaps you can help someone else," he said. He suggested that any place where there is a large gathering of people should have an  AED on hand.

Once the "patient" was on the floor, the University Hospital team sprang into action. Nurse practioner at University Hospital Energency Department Angela Barco called out that Northrop may be having a heart attack. A live call to 911 was made by a teacher.

Upon EMS arrival, the "patient" was still unresponsive. EMS began administering oxygen, checked his vital signs, started an IV and performed an EKG. EMS workers recognized the need for emergency transport and Northrop was taken out of the gym via stretcher. Allison Hillman with University Hospital Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention Center announced that this had been a drill.

Bowman continued with the presentation showing on the screen what type of things would be done once the "patient" reached the hospital. He explained what happens when a heart attack occurs.

"One of the arteries of the heart blocks and the heart experiences ventricular fibrillation," he said. "There is plaque rupture and tissue death. We open with a balloon and put a stint in. But remember, none of this is possible unless the first person to the scene calls 911 and someone does CPR."

Bowman explained that normally the symptoms of heart attack are chest pain and pressure or tightness in the chest. But symptoms can vary including nausea, shortness of breath, anxiety, jaw pain, fatigue, feeling of fullness and pain in the arm or back.

He said that measures a person can take if he is alone and feels the symptoms of heart attack is to chew on an aspirin, call 911 and stay quiet until the ambulance arrives.

"There actually is a technique for one-person CPR,'' he said. "It could be as simple as the person forgot to take her reflux medication, but if in doubt, go and have an EKG done. It will usually show if the person is having a heart attack. Better safe than sorry."
He continued with risk factors for heart attack. They include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, migraine headaches, smoking, overweight, increased stress on the heart, periodontal disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and hypothyroidism.

Some of these would be difficult to control, but others would not be, he said.
"I know many of you are thinking, 'I'm young. I don/t have to worry about this for awhile,'"' he said. "But some of you who are 17 and 18 years old are setting the stage right now for a heart attack."

Victoria Burt, nurse practitioner for University Hospital's Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention Center, spoke briefly on lifestyle changes.

"You can do a lot to reduce these risks," she said. "If you smoke, stop! Have good nutrition (eat lots of fruits and vegetables). Have good oral health. Get the right amount of sleep."

Other University Hospital staff members who helped with the drill include Russell Wise with Air Med.

"This particular helicopter that I brought the team over in this morning  can fly 150 miles per hour. There are no stop signs or red lights. These save many lives."

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