James and Sally Dowdle

A person in cardiac arrest has the greatest chance of total recovery if he/she undergoes angioplasty within 90 minutes of arriving at the hospital, according to a task force of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.

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Cardiac patients arriving at the Loyola University Health System (Loyola) Emergency Department will receive angioplasty well within the recommended 90 minute window thanks to a $500,000 gift from Jim and Sally Dowdle to help fund the Heart Attack Rapid Response Team (HARRT) Initiative. The HARRT Initiative staffs a team of cardiologists, nurses and technicians in the Emergency Department 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The department’s efforts to reduce the time patients wait before they receive treatment starts even before they arrive in the hospital. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics in ambulances with EKG machines will attach patients to the machines to get a head start on the diagnosis. “Since many of our patients arrive in ambulances after an average ride of six to seven minutes, we decided it would be most efficient to use that time for diagnostics,” said Mark Cichon, DO, director of Emergency Medical Services.

If an EKG performed in the ambulance or hospital confirms a heart attack, the patient will be wheeled immediately to the cardiac catherization lab, where an interventional cardiologist will thread a catheter from an artery in the groin to the heart. The cardiologist then inflates a balloon at the tip of the catheter to open the artery and, in many cases, places a stent to keep the artery open.

“Time is heart muscle,” said David Wilber, MD, director of the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine Cardiovascular Institute. “The sooner we open up the artery, the better.”

In instituting the HAART initiative, Loyola University Medical Center has become the first hospital in the western suburbs to take an aggressive pro-active position in advancing immediate care to patients in cardiac distress. Most hospitals do not have cardiac specialists on site during nights and weekends, meaning that precious time is lost when the team has to be called in from home.

Fortunately for 56-year-old Joyce Moss, of Berwyn, little time was lost when she arrived at Loyola last November in the midst of a heart attack. Ms. Moss was on her way to work as a school bus driver when she experienced a tightening in her chest, nausea, numbness in one arm and profuse sweating. Recognizing the signs of a heart attack, she took a detour from her job and headed to First Avenue. “I’m a longtime patient of Loyola and I knew if I could get there I’d be fine,” she said. She had gotten as far as 31st Street and First Avenue when she had to call 9-1-1. She was transported to Loyola and underwent an angioplasty within 42 minutes. “The nurses and doctors were all waiting for me and everything happened expediently,” she recalled. “I’m undergoing therapy now. I feel great and am able to enjoy my six children and 11 grandchildren.”

Learn about opportunities to support cardiac care at Loyola University Health System by contacting the Office of Development & External Affairs at development@lumc.edu or (708) 216-3201.

Gift Helps Launch Cardiac Distress Initiative