Refresher course

Local EMS teams participate in workshop covering heart attack awareness, reading ECGs

By Katie Demeria

FRONT ROYAL — At 65, Sharon Snapp of Front Royal was an active, fit woman with a low heart attack risk. She did not smoke and had neither high cholesterol nor high blood pressure. But on April 23, 2013, she had an emergency quadruple bypass.

Snapp was a guest speaker at STEMI showdown, a training session held earlier this week for local EMS teams at the Warren County Government Center. It was sponsored by staff from Warren Memorial Hospital and Winchester Medical Center’s cardiovascular departments.

Rasheva Sperry, chest pain coordinator at Warren Memorial, said the session was created to refresh ECG knowledge for local emergency teams.

“All of them already know how to read ECGs, this is just to remind them and keep their memories fresh,” Sperry said.

ECGs tell emergency teams whether or not a patient is having a heart attack. Based on that information, they must decide whether to take the patient to a hospital such as Warren Memorial in Front Royal, or Winchester Medical Center in Winchester, which has the equipment required to treat a serious heart attack.

It is very important that local crews know how to recognize a heart attack, according to Dr. James Freilich of Warren Memorial. Snapp is a prime example of the fact that anyone can suffer from heart problems, he added.

“You can be a dynamic, healthy person with zero risk factors and still have a heart attack,” he said.

If the team that picked Snapp up had not taken her immediately to Winchester Medical after reading her ECG, she may have lost some precious time.

Various EMS agencies from around Warren County participated in the STEMI showdown, including Linden Volunteer Fire Department, Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department, Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, North Warren Volunteer Fire and Rescue, and Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire Department.

Snapp was able to speak on Tuesday with individuals from the Linden and Rivermont departments who, by making the decision to take her to Winchester Medical Center, may have seriously improved her chances of surviving the attack.

According to Kayla Roberts, chest pain coordinator for Winchester Medical Center, using the emergency system saved Snapp valuable time. If her husband had not insisted on calling 911, or if he had taken her to Warren Memorial himself, the staff at Winchester Medical Center would not have been prepared for her arrival.

“We actually removed a non-emergency patient from the table to make room for her when she arrived,” Roberts said. “If we had not known, it would have taken longer.”

Having strong EMS teams in the area, Freilich said, is especially important for all these reasons.

“People in this area don’t know how lucky they are to have such skilled EMS crews,” he said. It’s their attitude, training, experience — and especially that they actually care.”

According to Sperry, 50 percent of patients experiencing heart attacks take themselves to the hospital rather than calling emergency services.

Many also simply ignore their symptoms and go to the hospital at a later time, she added.

Sperry is responsible for making Warren Memorial Hospital a nationally accredited chest pain center. This means Sperry works on a regular basis to raise heart health awareness and coordinate appropriate systems with local EMS teams.

“It’s really important that we get out into the community and spread the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and what to do,” Sperry said.

Sperry will be discussing early heart attack care at a public information meeting from 6-7 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Samuels Public Library in Front Royal.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com