Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tacoma Fire Department earns national EMS award

In May, Tacoma Fire Department received the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline® EMS Silver Award for implementing operational and quality improvement procedures that expedite treatment of patients who experience severe heart attacks.

Every year, more than 250,000 people nationwide experience a STEMI, or ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction, a type of heart attack caused by a complete blockage of blood flow to the heart. To prevent death, it’s critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible, either by surgically opening the blocked vessel or by giving clot-busting medication.

Fortunately for the more than 218,000 citizens served by Tacoma Fire—including those living in Tacoma, Fircrest, Fife and Fire District 10—the firefighter-paramedics and firefighter-EMTs work closely with Tacoma General Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center as part of a comprehensive emergency cardiac care system. “This system benefits our citizens who have a STEMI-type of heart attack each year, as well as those who experience other serious cardiac conditions,” said TFD’s Medical Service Officer Mike Newhouse.

TFD was recognized for its early and accurate interpretation of 12-lead ECGs, which can determine if a heart attack is occurring, and for following protocols derived from national guidelines. The correct tools and training allow firefighter-paramedics to rapidly identify a STEMI patient and alert the hospitals that an incoming patient will need immediate treatment in a cardiac lab. This gives the hospitals time to assemble a specialized cardiac team to treat the patient.

“While Tacoma Fire is working hard with its partners to decrease the time to care for STEMI heart attack patients, many still wait too long before calling 9-1-1 with heart attack symptoms. For example, they may have unexplained chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, or dizziness or sweating” Newhouse said.