The "Golden Hour" saves a Le Sueur woman's life

August 14, 2013

The "Golden Hour" saves a Le Sueur woman's life
By ERIN O'NEILL eoneill@lesueurnews-herald.com
Courtesy of the Le Sueur News Herald

In the grand scheme of things, 56 minutes seems like a pretty inconsequential amount of time.
People often waste 56 minutes watching a TV show, taking a leisurely afternoon nap or clicking around on the computer. But for Judy Evans, 56 minutes could very well have been the difference between life and death.

While exercising with a trainer in Le Sueur one day in June, Evans started to feel a little funny, but didn't think much of it, as small aches and pains are typical of pretty much any workout.
"I was exercising and started feeling a burning sensation on the sides of my neck," said Evans. "But it wasn't anything that would send up a red flag."

Figuring the tingling would pass, Evans got in her truck and started to drive home. She was just a couple of miles outside of Le Sueur on County Road 18 and still a good distance from her house when she decided to pull over. In an attempt to quell an increasing sensation of dizziness, she put her head between her knees — but the feeling only got worse. That's when Evans knew it was time to call 911. Little did she know that she was in the beginning stages of a massive heart attack.

"Females present differently for cardiac issues," said Pam Williams, the interim CEO of Minnesota Valley Health Center. "For men, typical signs are chest pain and pain down the left arm but for women it can present in a number of different ways."

According to the American Heart Association, signs of a heart attack in women can include discomfort in the back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath, nausea and even lightheadedness. But just because the symptoms seem mild the possible consequences could still be serious.

The Le Sueur ambulance crew that responded to Evans' call (Marvin Sullivan, Tom Svihel and Lisa Eue) knew immediately that she was going into cardiac arrest and rushed her to the Minnesota Valley Health Center. That's when her 'golden hour' trauma clock started.

When a person suffers a traumatic injury, such as a heart attack, the medical treatment they receive within a 60-minute window of the event is extremely critical to the outcome of the injury and the survival of the patient.

But in the midst of this incredibly stressful life event, Evans found a calm that was inspired by the swift actions of the medical team around her.

"I was never afraid, even though it was quite serious," said Evans. "Everyone moved very confidently."

The hospital immediately called Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and their staff operated like clockwork, sending a helicopter for Evans and rushing her into a Cath lab as soon as she arrived.

"[Abbott] does everything they can possibly do to get people in and take care of the problem," said Williams. "They get their team ready and start preparing the minute they get the call."
After the procedure, when she was resting and stable, the nurses checked their equipment and found that Evans' heart was operating normally after 100 percent blockage of the coronary artery just hours before.

"The thing that is amazing and noteworthy is that, had I not come [to the Minnesota Valley Health Center], there would not have been time to go where I needed to and I probably wouldn't have made it," said Evans. "I probably would have died if I hadn't been brought to this facility."

In response to a statewide initiative back in 2005, the Minnesota Valley Health Clinic thought it important to take the steps necessary to be certified as a Level IV trauma hospital – steps that probably saved Evans' life.

"I wanted what was best for the community," said Williams.

In addition to the required exercises and certifications that all medical staff must complete for the hospital to maintain its Level IV trauma designation, the Minnesota Valley Health Center also runs the staff through optional courses to ensure the level of care offered to patients in the critical first 60 minutes after a serious injury.

"We do it because we think it's important," said Williams.

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