Issues of the Heart

It is a normal day. You are doing normal activities yet something feels off. Lunch was hours ago but you can’t seem to shake the “full feeling” that has settled into your chest. You aren’t doing any physical activity but you feel like you just can’t catch your breath. In an attempt to shrug it off, you roll your shoulders, which have gotten tight. It doesn’t help. In fact, your neck starts to hurt. It isn’t long before the pain intensifies and travels down your arm. The shortness of breath worsens. A cold sweat dampens your brow. “Must be the flu,” you think, as the nausea hits. It’s only a few seconds before that “full feeling” becomes pressure so intense you reach up to grab your chest.

It’s not the flu. It’s a heart attack.

You call 911.

Your trip in the ambulance is a blur. Part of you is embarrassed thinking all this trouble won’t be worth it when you starting feeling better. You are aware of the EMT’s and Paramedics attaching equipment and asking questions but you aren’t 100% certain they need to be doing all of this. Then, the intensifying pain continues to build. You no longer are able to speak. The dull, heavy sensation has become almost intolerable. In fact, there are times when you give in to the pain and drift out only to be ripped back to the present as the pain becomes sharp and acute.

The ambulance gets you to the Emergency Department. One thing stands out clearly in your mind … hearing the words “heart attack” being confirmed by a concerned physician.

In mere seconds, you are whisked out of the ED. A calming hand touches your shoulder. Kind eyes peer over a surgical mask. You hear, “You are in the Cath Lab.” Professionals are working on equipment. Your masked guardian stays by your side. You want to tell them ‘hurry, hurry, hurry’ but the pain is too great. Just when you think you can’t take anymore, the pain lessens. You catch your breath. You are able to take a full breath so you take another and another. Your lungs fill with air. The pain has eased. The panic is over.

More than 800 patients a year enter our Cath Lab in very similar circumstances. The national average from ED door to life saving procedure is 90 minutes. Athens Regional’s time is almost half that — 51 minutes.

In less than it takes to watch a reality show on TV, Cath Lab professionals save lives. The Cath team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. Sedation, operating the X-ray equipment, monitoring of patients or scrubbing in to assist with the procedure; these are the responsibilities of the 4 team members in each Cath Lab room. Most procedures are done through the traditional femoral artery but Athens Regional is also beginning to do some procedures through the radial artery in the wrist which allows a decreased recovery time after the procedure.

The ARMC Cath Lab does more than emergency caths. We are equipped to handle:

  • Diagnostic right and left heart caths
  • Structural heart procedures
  • Interventional PCI (balloon and stint placement)
  • Diagnostic EP studies
  • Implantation of pacemakers, internal defibrillators
  • 3D mapping of the heart
  • ICE (Intra Cardiac Echo)

The Cath Lab is a vital part of the Comprehensive Cardiac Program at Athens Regional Medical Center. You may hope you never meet the caring professionals in the Cath Lab. However, if the need arises for a diagnostic or interventional cardiac procedure, be assured that your heart is in good hands with us.

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