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 Ohio State’s Level I Heart and Vascular Emergency Care

One Couple. Two Heart Attacks. Life-Saving STEMI Care at Work.

When an eastern Ohio couple suffered heart attacks on the same day, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center was able to provide the high-level tertiary care that ultimately saved both their lives.

Cindy Graham was watching TV one morning when she noticed her husband, Bill, slumped over the table.

“I knew something was wrong immediately,” Cindy says. “I called his name and slapped his face, and then I dialed 9-1-1.”

The dispatcher talked Cindy through CPR while the squad was on its way.

“I had to get him on the floor, which was very hard to do. While I was on the phone, Bill let out a few breaths of air. When the ambulance got here – within about five minutes – they shocked him eight times,” she said.

With Bill in full cardiac arrest, Cindy went outside, crying that her husband was gone. Shortly afterward, a paramedic found her passed out in the yard – Cindy was having a heart attack, too.

When Every Minute Counts

Husband and wife were rushed to their local hospital in Barnesville, Ohio. Bill was assessed for STEMI – ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction – the most serious form of heart attack.

He was transported by air to Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, more than 100 miles away. Cindy followed in an ambulance.

Once at Ohio State’s University Hospital East, Bill received a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).

“The treating physician dilated the clogged artery with a balloon and placed a stent. That solved the problem by opening up the artery that caused the heart attack,” says Dr. Vincent Pompili, MD, FACC, director of Interventional Cardiovascular Medicine and Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

While Bill received his procedure, Cindy was diagnosed with a less time-sensitive type of heart attack – non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI).

The team found multiple blockages and recommended possible open heart surgery because of her high risk. She was transferred to Ohio State’s Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital, but after careful deliberation by her cardiac care team, Cindy received the same cardiac cath procedure as her husband.

A Case Study for Excellent Coordinated Care

Bill and Cindy Graham’s unusual story is a great example of team work delivering advanced care that saves lives through Ohio State’s Level I Heart and Vascular Emergency program. The program works with nearly 200 hospitals in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.

As part of the program, emergency medical personnel transporting patients to Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center issue a “STEMI alert” from the field. With one phone call, surgeons, cardiologists, nurses and imaging technologists are mobilized to prepare for the arriving patient.

By bypassing the normal triage process in the emergency department and transporting the patient directly to the cardiac catheterization lab, the waiting team of medical specialists can begin treatment immediately.

Thanks to protocols like this one, Ohio State is a leader in STEMI care throughout central Ohio – achieving an average door-to-open-artery time of only 47 minutes. That’s nearly twice as fast as the national average of 90 minutes.

How Ohio State Built a Leading Regional Program

“We set out to maximize excellence in an area where there was an unmet clinical need for improving access and the process for patients in need of STEMI care,” Pompili says.

But success didn’t happen overnight.

“Seven years ago when we started our program, we had excellent clinical care, but many barriers to accessing it. It took true dedication from our leaders to analyze each and every barrier in the process and figure out how to negate them. Each refinement and each barrier removed means faster care for our patients.”

“To this day, we assemble a dedicated team who meets regularly to continue process improvements to push the boundaries of our STEMI program even further,” says Pompili.

In addition to STEMI, Ohio State’s Level I Heart and Vascular Emergency program treats other heart and vascular emergencies, such as ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, acute aortic dissection, acute limb ischemia and cardiogenic shock.

Personalized Care Leads to Best Treatment Results for Patients

Today Bill and Cindy are back home and doing well.

“It’s an interesting story with a happy ending on both sides,” says Dr. Pompili. “The fact that she did CPR on her husband is amazing. She was able to save his life until the squad came.”

Both Grahams have quit smoking, with help from nicotine patches provided by the hospital, and they have taken up walking. Bill is in rehab, and Cindy has returned to her job wrapping meat at a local store.

The Grahams were very pleased with the care they received at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“Everyone was so nice at both University Hospital East and the Ross. They treated us like old friends when they came into the room and always explained everything to me,” says Cindy. “They were absolutely wonderful.”