Local Woman is Glad She Didn’t Wait to Call 911
Janet Griffith of Houghton Lake enjoys her job as a floral designer. She is glad that she didn’t wait to call 911 when suffering from a heart attack earlier this year.
One sunny day last March, Janet Griffith of Houghton Lake was clearing a little snow from her porch when she began having a heart attack. Despite suffering the most serious type of attack – an ST elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI – Griffith’s heart had minimal damage thanks to quick action taken by Houghton Lake EMS and MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland.
“A heart attack was the last thing on my mind that day,” Griffith said. “I was just shoveling with one hand, clearing the porch so the sun could melt the rest of the snow. I wasn’t even really exerting myself, when my left arm suddenly went numb.”
Her arm quickly became so numb that it hurt all the way from her shoulder to her hand. “After that, I got really sweaty, then had a quick, tightening pain in my jaw,” she said. “Then my breathing got labored and I laid down on the floor.”
Griffith’s first thought was to wait a few minutes for the problem to pass, but fortunately, she changed her mind. “I called a friend but got up to unlock the door and felt like I was going to pass out,” she said. “That’s when I called 911.” Local paramedics were there in five minutes, even before her friend arrived. After performing an electrocardiogram, they determined she was suffering from a STEMI and would need intervention to restore blood flow to her heart.
Rather than taking Griffith to the closest emergency room, Houghton Lake EMS contacted Mercy Hospital Grayling which approved the bypass protocol to take Griffith directly to MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland, the closest Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) Center. Upon arrival at the Medical Center, she was immediately rushed to the Cath Lab where a cardiac catheterization was performed to locate the artery blockages and re-establish blood flow.
The drive took about 60 minutes. “I was conscious during the whole time and was in no pain,” Griffith said. “As soon as we got there, they took me right in for the procedure.”
Interventional Cardiologist Michael Lauer, M.D., and the Cardiac Cath Rapid Response Team had been alerted and were waiting for Griffith. “I remember they were starting to prep me, and I looked up and saw Dr. Lauer, and then I was out. My brother was in the waiting room, and they showed him the pictures of the two blockages in my right coronary artery.”
“We have set a target of less than or equal to 120 minutes for first medical contact to balloon intervention for patients who would have otherwise been taken to a hospital without the capability to perform definitive coronary procedures,” said Dr. Lauer. “By following these recommendations, the patient’s chance of recovery without loss of heart muscle or long-term complications is very high.”
After Dr. Lauer reestablished blood flow to Griffith’s heart, she spent two nights in the hospital prior to returning to her busy life.
“Before my heart attack, I had not been a pill-taker and had never been in the hospital. The first few days were hard for me, but I was able to do what I needed to do,” Griffith said, “I just did it a little slower. It was a little scarier at night because I would notice my heart beating, but I got over that after a month or so.”
A week after the procedure, Griffith went back to her part-time job as a floral designer. “At first I felt very tired and told my boss I might have to sit down every once in a while, which I did,” she said.
Following her doctor’s orders, she eased slowly back into exercising and took the daily medication her doctor prescribed. She was grateful that her follow-up visits with Dr. Lauer would not require travel to Midland, since he holds regular office hours right in her neighborhood at MidMichigan Health Park–Houghton Lake.
Before long Griffith began feeling better, and six months after leaving the hospital, she reported feeling normal, strong and able to do anything she needed to do. Around that time she started a second part-time job as a cashier at a home and garden store.
“Right now, I feel like my heart attack never happened and life is not any different at all,” she said. “I’m the type of person who has a hard time staying still. I jump up and do the dishes during commercials. I go out and push the mower. I think I’m like a lot of women: If we have aches and pains, we just deal with it,” she said. “But I’m glad I didn’t do that when I was having a heart attack. I’m glad I called 911.”
With state protocols now in place, MidMichigan Health’s STEMI Alert Program is approved for up to a 90-minute patient transport time to MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland. To ensure the overall success of the program, MidMichigan Medical Center EMS actively collaborates with other area EMS providers to provide ongoing training and support. These include Houghton Lake EMS, Denton Township Ambulance Service, Mobile Medical Response (MMR) and Bay Medical EMS. Those interested in more information on MidMichigan’s EMS Heart Attack Alert Program may visit www.midmichigan.org/stemi.