Tracey Kole - Sanford, MI
"Everything went like clockwork. It was very comforting to know that the cath lab team was waiting for me when I arrived."
Medical Center Employee Benefits from STEMI Program Firsthand
For 63 year-old Tracey Kole, the date of September 25 will remain forever ingrained in her memory. It all started when she began feeling extremely tired at work. On her way home all she could think about was quickly letting her dogs out and then lying down for a nap. “Shortly after arriving home, I became extremely nauseated and started perspiring profusely,” said Tracey. “I also felt pain in the center of my chest that radiated down both of my arms. As the symptoms quickly became worse, I called 911.”
Tracey, an Employee Health Nurse at MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland, was very familiar with the signs of a heart attack but never thought she would be experiencing them herself. She didn’t have a family or personal history of heart disease so the thought of a heart attack had never really crossed her mind.
Upon arriving at her home in Sanford, paramedics from MidMichigan Medical Center–Emergency Medical Services immediately checked Tracey’s vital signs and performed a 12-lead ECG which revealed that she was having a ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) heart attack.
In STEMI patients, the coronary artery is completely blocked off by a blood clot. As a result of this blockage, all of the heart muscle being supplied by the affected artery starts to die.
Upon determining the severity of the situation, the paramedics attending to Tracey quickly set in motion a streamlined course of action to save her life and minimize damage to her heart. They immediately alerted the Emergency Department staff and set off for MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland.
This streamlined process, referred to as MidMichigan’s STEMI Alert Program, is designed to rapidly identify patients who are suffering from a STEMI heart attack, so that treatment can be expedited upon arrival at the Medical Center.
“As soon as we reached the Medical Center, they took me directly to the cardiac cath lab,” Tracey said. “Everything went like clockwork. It was very comforting to know that the cath lab team was waiting for me when I arrived. By the time the team finished getting me ready the cardiologist was there and that is the last thing I remember.”
Interventional Cardiologist William Felten, M.D., performed a procedure that cleared the plaque from Tracey’s blocked artery and restored blood flow to her heart. He also implanted a drug-eluting stent in her right coronary artery to keep the artery open.
“The paramedics are my angels,” said Tracey. “They kept me informed of what was going on and reassured me things would be fine.” Thanks to the expedited treatment she received, there was no permanent damage to her heart.
According to Tracey, who has been participating in MidMichigan’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, she is starting to feel normal again. “I have been slowly regaining my strength and no longer feel short of breath,” she said. “Every day, I’m feeling stronger. I was back to work within four weeks and I’m finally doing everything I did before. In some respects, I even feel better.”
When asked if she was aware of MidMichigan’s STEMI Alert Program prior to her incident, she said that even though she knew about it, she didn’t fully understand what it meant. “Now that I’ve got to experience the program firsthand, I can’t stress enough the importance of dialing 911 as soon as heart attack symptoms present themselves. It can make the difference between life and death.”
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.