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Two of 600 Hearts at Olean General Hospital

Posted on: 11/06/2014

When it comes to a heart attack, doctors and nurses often use the phrase “time is muscle”. Medical experts say the quicker you get to a hospital with cardiac capabilities during a heart attack, the better your chances of living through it.

On the afternoon of September 19, Bonnie Taylor, age 64, of Salamanca, came to understand what “time is muscle” means and the value of having Olean General Hospital nearby, the only hospital in Southwestern New York capable of treating heart attacks. Born and raised in Salamanca, Bonnie volunteers as an aide, assisting patients in their homes. On this particular day Bonnie was volunteering in a patient’s home when she began sweating and feeling like she had indigestion.

Although her symptoms continued, Bonnie convinced herself that it was not a heart problem. After all, she said she didn’t have any previous heart problems and her symptoms were not the classic heart attack indicators such as pain traveling down the arms, jaw pain, chest pressure or squeezing. None-the-less, Bonnie called her son, J.D. King, who picked her up and took her to her physician’s office, which was closed at the time. J.D. then took his mom to the City of Salamanca Fire Department where she had her vital signs checked. Even thought she was not in pain, Bonnie was advised to go to Olean General Hospital, which had opened its interventional cardiac catheterization laboratory. “I’ll be alright,” Bonnie told the fire company volunteers as she left, only to return a few minutes later. The symptoms were getting worse.

Bonnie said an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) took an EKG and told her, “I don’t want to scare you, but something is going on with your heart.” Moving quickly, the EMTs put Bonnie into an ambulance and had her on her way to Olean General Hospital. On route the EMS crew had Bonnie take two aspirins and three nitro glycerin pills and transmitted her EKG directly to the OGH Emergency Department. Bonnie Taylor was, in fact, having a heart attack.

Surprisingly, it was not her first encounter with facing a heart attack. Last October J.D., age 35, was also treated for a heart attack at OGH. He was one of the first emergency heart attack victims to be cared for in catheterization lab after it opened October 1, 2013.

At the hospital’s interventional cardiac catheterization laboratory, Dr. Christopher Mallavarapu, Medical Director of the Interventional Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, and his team were waiting for Bonnie, having seen the EKG transmission. The Salamanca EMTs brought Bonnie directly to the catheterization lab and with minutes, a stent was placed through her wrist and into her blocked heart artery, which had been robbed of blood flow. With the stent deployed, blood flow in Bonnie’s artery was restored.

“The Emergency Medical Services providers in Salamanca and across the region have done an outstanding job,” Dr. Mallavarapu said. “On many occasions they have made the difference between life and death in situations where heart attack victims received great pre-hospital care and got to OGH quickly.”

“I was amazed, Bonnie said. “It was so fast.” It was indeed fast; from the time Bonnie arrived at Olean General Hospital to the time the stent was inserted was only 21 minutes. “The staff was wonderful and they were all great,” she said.

Two days later she was discharged from the hospital and shortly thereafter returned to work. Her message is simple. “Don’t wait and don’t ignore symptoms. Pay attention,” she said.

Dr. Mallavarapu echoed Bonnie’s view. “People shouldn’t ignore the symptoms of a heart attack,” he said. “The quicker you can get to the hospital, the better the chances of having a good outcome. In Bonnie’s case she was having non-classic symptoms, which tend to occur in women more than men.”

“But the bottom line is if you’re having symptoms, don’t be embarrassed, get help. People need to call 911 and get to Olean General Hospital because we are the only hospital in the region with the capability to fix blocked arteries,” Dr. Mallavarapu said.

Bonnie Taylor and J.D. King are both doing well today. They are among the 600 patients who were diagnosed or treated for heart problems at the interventional cardiac catheterization laboratory during its first year of operation. The creation of the lab was possible as a result of a partnership between OGH and Kaleida Health’s Gates Vascular Institute, the largest provider of cardiac services in Western New York.

Prior to the creation of the Olean General Hospital catheterization laboratory, area residents had to travel to Buffalo, Rochester, and other distant cities to receive the life-saving heart care they needed. With heart disease, time is muscle, so every second counts. Traveling hours away to receive necessary cardiac care created the unfortunate potential of irreparable heart damage for patients unable to receive prompt treatment close to home.

“No more,” said Dr. Mallavarapu, who has performed more than 12,000 cardiac catheterizations. “Olean General Hospital now has the capability to find and fix heart problems right here, close to home. The opening of the lab and the great work of our Emergency Medical Services partners across the region is saving hearts and saving lives.”

Know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Feeling of numbness
  • Pain that travels down one or both arms
  • Jaw Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Chest Pressure, squeezing or discomfort
  • Back Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Feeling of Fullness
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