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Elmhurst Memorial Record 'Door-to-Balloon' Time Credited for Saving Heart Attack Patient

David Cairo and wife Mary Beth say calling 9-1-1 was the smartest thing he did when experiencing symptoms of a heart attack.  EMTs began the treatment process that resulted in the reopening of a blocked artery just 24 minutes after he arrived at EMH.
David Cairo and wife Mary Beth say calling 9-1-1 was the smartest thing he did when experiencing symptoms of a heart attack. EMTs began the treatment process that resulted in the reopening of a blocked artery just 24 minutes after he arrived at EMH.

David Cairo, 57, of Addison thought the pain in his chest was just indigestion.  The yard work would need to wait while he rested with a glass of water.

“This had happened before, and the pain would go away.  But this time, it didn’t,” Cairo recalls.

In fact, the pain moved up to his jaw and throughout an arm, and became more intense.  What he did next likely saved his life.

“I was afraid to call the paramedics because if it wasn’t a heart attack, I’d feel like a fool.  But I called 9-1-1 anyway,” Cairo says about that day in May 2012.

Emergency medical technicians confirmed his condition and electronically sent test results to the Elmhurst Memorial Hospital (EMH) emergency medical team that was standing by, including Lawrence Barr, MD, a cardiologist with EMH and Midwest Heart-Advocate Medical Group.

There’s a window of opportunity — called door-to-balloon — for a patient to receive life-saving medical treatment following a heart attack.  The national standard is 90 minutes, but EMH’s average is closer to just 60 minutes.  And in Cairo’s case, only 24 minutes passed between the moment he reached the hospital and the time the blocked artery was reopened with a stent — a hospital record.

“We try to go well beyond the national goals and are always looking for ways to shave off a minute or two yet maintain quality,” says Dr. Barr.

While Cairo was being prepared for cardiac catheterization, a nurse called his wife, Mary Beth, at work.  Hearing the news “took the breath out of me,” she says.  Even though she left for the hospital immediately, by the time she arrived, her husband had already received stents and was “in the recovery room with a big smile on his face.”

Since his heart attack, Cairo has quit smoking, lowered his cholesterol, lost weight and completely changed his diet.

“I eat so much chicken now that people ask me why I cross the road,” he jokes.

Looking back, the Cairos both say calling 9-1-1 was the smartest action David took.

Notes Mary Beth, “Time is not on the heart attack patient’s side.  Don’t lose all that valuable time, which the paramedics can use to start the tests and communicate with hospital personnel.  Just call 9-1-1.”

To find out if you’re at risk for heart disease, take EMH’s free five-minute test that could save your life at www.emhc.org/HealthAware. For more information about EMH activities during Heart Month in February, visit www.emhc.org/services/cardiology/community-ed.  

Jim Court January 31, 2014 at 09:07 AM
This is the exact reason why I often expressed the belief that we made a mistake in closing the original Elmhurst Hospital. I believe that the emergency room should have remained open with other basic medical services. The building would have served best as a senior facility. Elmhurst Hospital was held to high standards by the Joint Commission. Many dollars had been poured into the continued maintenance of the physical structure. Yes, we will get more tax dollars perhaps from housing but perhaps the original building could have been converted into housing which would generate tax dollars. Families will put a burden on our schools that seniors would not. The character of the neighborhood will greatly change. We will have an island of new homes that stand in stark contrast to the surrounding neighborhood. Citizens from North Elmhurst, Bensenville, and Northlake will have to travel great distances and spend much time trying to travel down York Rd, which is often a single lane with heavy traffic. I am all for innovation and modernism yet I see the value of traditions. The old Elmhurst Hospital was just that. We lost much by closing it. All of the history and memories for generations of people was left behind. The downtown has been strongly impacted by the loss of the Hospital. This event occurred in 2012. I have no way of knowing but it might be safe to think that he was treated at the old Hospital. I do not dismiss the value of the new Hospital. I just we would have considered the ramifications of closing the old Hospital. Any thoughts on this? Feel free to disagree. I welcome dissenting opinions although my mind is pretty much made up.
Deke February 01, 2014 at 09:38 PM
I don't doubt that EMH outgrew the old property and that a move was wise, but it does seem to have had an adverse economic impact on downtown. I have been told the restaurants in particular have noticed it -- no hospital employees stopping by for lunch. Mr. Cairo, I'm glad everything went well for you. Went through the same thing myself not too long ago. But before you eat a lot more chicken, please check out Dr. Dean Ornish's "Program for Reversing Heart Disease" and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease" -- then discuss them with your cardiologist. Both programs call for reducing your fat intake (saturated and unsaturated) to 10% of calories. According to the books, the progression of coronary artery disease halts in 99% of people, and there is some reversal of the disease in 82% of people on that program. The American Heart Association diet, which I suspect you might be following, calls for reducing your fat intake to about 30% of calories. The problem is, while that will slow the progression of coronary artery disease, for most people it will not stop it. You have been given a second chance, be sure you are fully informed on all of your options. In my experience, while the cardiologists at EMH are great, the EMH dietary folks were less than impressive.

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