It’s a beautiful, sunny fall morning as RP and I roll into the local franchise of Large National Coffee and Doughnut Emporium. The police may have their cliches about doughnut shops, but we all know that paramedics really run on caffeine. The first stop every morning is LNCDE, or sometimes Expensive Yuppie Coffe Place up the street.
We both take our caffeine cold: coffee for RP and tea for me. (And don’t wreck it with sugar. But I digress. . .)
“Boy, am I glad to see you guys,” says the gentleman behind the counter. Wait, that’s supposed to be my line!
“I’ve been having this pain in my chest all morning.” It looks like today is going to start early. I spin on my heel and head back to the rig for the equipment, as RP talks him out from behind the counter.
Our coffee man doesn’t look extremely sick, but he tells the textbook story of a heart attack. He’s been having crushing pain, radiating to one arm. He has risk factors; he’s getting along in years, slightly overweight, a former smoker, and male. He even has the denial, saying his pain has been going on for about an hour.
And he only decided to ask for help when he saw us walk in.
Our cardiac monitor won’t detect all heart attacks in the field, but today we have no question. Coffee Man meets all of our diagnostic criteria. This is what we are trained and equipped for: the rapid diagnosis, treatment, and transportation of cardiac problems. A quick ride to Local Suburban Hospital is in order, along with a radio pre-alert for the cardiac catheterization lab.
We stop only briefly in the ER. The doctor glances at our EKG, nods, and waves us on our way. Definitive treatment for our patient is upstairs in the cath lab, and time is of the essence.
Upstairs, the cardiology team begins work on Coffee Man before our wheels have stopped turning. RP gives a report to the doctor while the nurses and I transfer our patient to the procedure table. On the ride up the elevator, we’ve already warned him that the suite will be a whirlwind of activity and tried to explain what will happen and why.
Our empty stretcher is shoved back out into the hallway, and we are ushered into a corner of the control room. It’s not meant to be rude. On an emergency scene when a life is on the line, we may be seen as brusque in dealing with bystanders. Here in the cath lab, our job is done, and now we are the bystanders.
From our small corner of the control room, we can see the TV monitors. The cardiology team finds the source of our patient’s heart attack and fixes it, before we can finish writing our report.
And all before we’ve had our morning coffee.