An ambulance is more than just a fast ride - it saves lives

It's heart month, a good time to remind you that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.

During a heart attack, every second counts. That's why health care officials urge you to call 911.

Adams County Ambulance paramedic Doug Orr responds to his share of heart attack patients. He says it's the immediate care at your house and inside this rig that can be the difference between life and death.

"The care that we start at your house, is the same care you would see in the emergency room," Orr said.

Machines inside an ambulance can diagnose a heart attack, and allows patients to receive medications to reopen blocked arteries. Click here to see machines inside Adams County ambulances that help deliver care on the road.

But more than care, calling 911 gives Dr. Steven Krause, Medical Director of the Blessing Hospital Heart and Vascular Center time to prepare. Click here to hear from Dr. Krause during KHQA This Morning.

"Normally we are here taking care of patients. But we do go home, we do sleep," Dr. Krause said. "If we are on call and you're at home having a heart attack, if you call the ambulance, wireless blue tooth technology and the ambulance crew will activate me when I am at my house, to get up and drive here and get here before the ambulance does. My team had time to assemble. We'll save valuable minutes and saving heart muscle."

Dr. Krause says many people delay calling 911 because they don't want to believe they are having a heart attack. Others drive because they believe its faster to come to the hospital by private car. But those delays land patients in the emergency room.

"You're going to come in through the main doors and you're going to go through the triage process," Dr. Antony Wollaston said. "We expedite that fairly quickly and see heart patients first. But if you call an ambulance, you go through the ambulance doors and straight to a bed. You're seen immediately."

Click here to learn more about the process you would go through if you drive to the emergency room yourself in a heart attack.

"How much time can it save you?

"If you come in by private car, it could be well over an hour before you get to the cardiac cath lab," Randy Faxon, Blessing Hospital EMS Coordinator said. "Our average is 20 minutes if you come by ambulance."

Click here to learn more statistics from KHQA This Morning.

And that's not all, dialing 911 helps you bypass the emergency room all together - going straight to the cath lab. A cath lab is where blood is restored to the arteries and vessels of your heart.

"The sooner you can open up the artery, the more you're preserving cardiac tissue," Jordan Stroot, a Radiologic Technologist with the Blessing Cath Lab said. "If the artery has been down for a sustained amount of time, it can cause damage to the heart."

Click here to hear more about what happens in the cath lab.

Time is tissue.

Heart tissue cannot regenerate if it dies. That means quality of life after a heart attack is at stake with each passing minute.

"The heart muscle you're born with, that's all you have," Dr. Krause said. "So if you're able to open up that blocked artery you're able to save that heart muscle. If we don't that muscle dies and you don't get it back. It does not regenerate."

Crucial time that begins with a call to 911 and paramedics like Orr.

"It's a really great feeling to be able to walk right through the emergency room and straight to the cath lab, knowing that you've given them the same treatments as the doctors and nurses would have given them and get them into the treatment they need much faster," Orr said.

Heart attacks have several major warning signs and symptoms: They include pain or discomfort in the chest, upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach. Shortness of breath, nausea, and fatigue are also common.

Symptoms of heart attacks are different for men and women. Click here to learn more from KHQA This Morning.

According to the CDC in a 2005 survey, 92 percent of people recognized chest pain as a symptom of a heart attack. Only 27 percent were aware of all major symptoms and knew to call 911 when someone was having a heart attack. Click here to read more from the CDC.