Utahns having a heart attack more likely to drive than call an ambulance

Posted at 10:27 PM, Feb 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-23 00:27:17-05

SALT LAKE CITY --  A national initiative is aimed at decreasing the time it takes to clear a blocked artery that is causing a heart attack.

The Door-to-Balloon Initiative was launched in 2005 with a goal of getting an artery unblocked in less than 90 minutes.

Cyd Vandyke is the chest pain coordinator at Lakeview Hospital, and she said it’s important for patients to be proactive.

"Mr. Public is not being very good about acting on his chest pain,” she said. “He has chest pain, he sits on it for a couple of hours, and a lot of times drives himself to the emergency room."

Vandyke said people experiencing chest pain should call an ambulance rather than drive.

"If he would call 911, when he or she has chest pain, then EMS is activated then they would come to the house and bring them to the hospital and things have already started to roll as far as getting the cath lab here, to get them to the cath lab sooner to get their artery open,” Vandyke explained.

Statistics indicate that Utahns are more likely to drive themselves to the hospital than call an ambulance upon feeling chest pain.

At Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem, data shows that 96 percent of people having a heart attack drove themselves to the emergency room. At Saint Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, 80 percent drove themselves. At Ogden Regional Medical Center, 64 percent drove themselves.

Some cite the cost of emergency services as the reason many drive themselves. Sean Tuckett is a registered nurse, and he said that’s not the only factor. He said people sometimes think they can handle things beyond their capabilities.

"We are stubborn as humans, and 'nothing's wrong with us' and 'we can handle anything,' especially us men, 'we're super people, we can handle that, it's just gas,' you know,” he said.

Vandyke said women are more likely than men to procrastinate when it comes to chest pain.

“Women tend to sit on their symptoms and not do anything about it much longer than men, so women are dying of heart disease, that's the number one killer of women,” she said.

Experts urged people who are experiencing chest pains to call an ambulance rather than hold off or drive themselves, as in heart attack situations seconds can mean the difference between life and death.