Mobile ER helps save heart attack, stroke patients


Whether you're having a stroke or a heart attack, every minute counts. Less than 24 hours after a massive heart attack, 52-year-old Ovsep Ter-Melkonyan of Van Nuys thanked the rescue team that started treating him as they transported him to a medical center equipped to handle his emergency.

His family drove him the ER closest to his home, but it wasn't equipped to do emergency angioplasties, so they called the critical care ambulance at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. The team stabilized him and got him to their cath lab in 45 minutes flat.

"When they're already in transport, the hospital's gearing up like a mash unit for the problem," said Dr. Daniel Eisenberg.

Providence St. Joe's is also an approved stroke center. Studies show if they doctors can treat them right away with clot-busting drugs like TPA, their chances of recovery are much greater.

"So the earlier someone can get in to get therapy, to open up the blood vessel, the better their chance for long-term recovery," said Dr. George Teitelbaum.

But sometimes, patients need much more and that's where this critical care team comes in.

"We have the equipment that's equivalent to an intensive care unit," said critical care nurse Debbie Buffham.

If you're having a stroke and you're on a clot-busting drug, they'd have to stop your treatment if you were in a regular ambulance, but these ambulances can continue your care.

Without the high-tech critical care unit on wheels, another ambulance could handle the transport, it's just another way to unburden the public system. Patients like Ter-Melkonyan are grateful it was there when he needed it.

When clot-busting drugs don't work, Teitelbaum says he may also place stents into the arteries of the brain to clear a clot.

The hospital's critical care transport team has been in operation for about a month.

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