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Buffalo Hospital's emergency care saves lives
Tom Burling thought he had heart burn. But when it proved to be a heart attack, he was fortunate to be within minutes of Buffalo Hospital's emergency room.
This nearly eight-minute video includes his story of survival. It's also about how Buffalo Hospital works with Mercy Hospital to save lives with timely heart care.
'Saving lives' video transcript
When Buffalo Hospital Foundation began a campaign to raise funds to help build a new Birth Center, they recruited community members to support the project and engage their friends and acquaintances.
A Foundation board member approached Rainer Pensky, a local business man, for a donation. Rainer's initial reaction was "maybe." He wanted to some time to think about it. Well, within a couple of weeks, Rainer was in a scooter accident and he received care at Buffalo Hospital for the injury and eventually, surgery.
Rainer Pensky: Something special happened - I had such a fantastic experience. The nurses were friendly. They asked me for my name and birthday every time they cared for me to make sure they had the right patient – not once did they not ask that question. They always had a smile and always friendly. Always caring for me like I never had it before. So I decided you know, maybe the hospital was worth my time and I told Karla Heeter (Buffalo Hospital Foundation) that I would do this (help with the campaign).
I had Tom on my list as a contact because I knew Tom for many many years as a Shirner and Mason. I talked to him when I went to his home to sign checks. I said Tom, I've got one more thing to talk you about – the Buffalo Hospital is doing a fundraiser and he said – I don't want anything to do with Buffalo Hospital – my doctor is in Edina – I had such a bad experience here (Buffalo), I don't go there. I don't want anything to do with them.
Well, four days later, on Sunday, I get a phone call from Tom, and he says, "Rainer, I want to thank you for saving my life."
I said, "What do you mean, saving your life?"
He said, "Because you talked to me about the hospital and the experience you had, that when I wasn't feeling well, I told Peggy (Tom's wife) to take me to the Buffalo Hospital rather than the doctor in Minneapolis."
Tom Burling: This is probably the most important thing I would share with anyone. I was sitting in my office, with no shoulder pain, no neck pain, and no shortness of breath – no nothing – I had heart burn. I'd been diagnosed with acid reflux five years prior with a thorough exam… stress echo, scope, the whole thing – acid reflux. And that's exactly what it felt like. No different.
Peggy (his wife) didn't let it linger. I mentioned to her. I have heart burn – and I asked, did I take my medicine this morning? Kind of a generic question? She said I don't know, so I took another one. No immediate relief. I chewed up some Tums - didn't do anything. Pepto Bismal, nothing.
And then Peggy noticed I had started profusely sweating, and she said, "You don't sweat from heart burn. I'm calling an ambulance."
I said, "Oh no, no ambulance." So there's where we deviate from our training and common sense. I told her, "No, you can drive me in."
I did want to go to Edina. My family physician is in Edina – that probably wasn't in the cards.
Tom Burling: Dr. Star immediately got me in here and my level of concern began to peak as they have a routine, protocol, which I would have assumed. He immediately said "I'm calling this one" and that brought back memories. Oh man, maybe this is more serious than what I convinced myself of.
Shelley Simkins Buffalo Hospital Emergency Department manager: We have a set protocol medical protocol here that our emergency room staff follow when a patient arrives into the emergency department – what we call a STAT team over head that brings us extra resources for AMI patients – gets these patients packaged – all their labs and needed information from Buffalo in 30 minutes and then back out the door by Allina Health ambulance or a flight service if needed.
From the time Tom walked in our door, 11 minutes later, he was being transported out by Allina Health EMS.
Tom Burling: 11 minutes amazes me.
Shelley Simkins Buffalo Hospital Emergency Department manager: Time is heart muscle. So when you're having an acute MI, the more time that lapses the more the heart muscle dies. And that's something we want to prevent.
Tom Burling: I've got to be very honest, to me, more concerning to me – remember I wasn't sold this wasn't a heart thing yet – to look out and have Peggy with me – a lot of hospitals would give her the boot.
She was able to stay, and there were many people on the time who knew us – that said, "Gosh Peggy, can I call someone for you?" So it wasn't just me – that was probably my biggest concern – who is taking care of her while I'm laying here, and I'd say they accommodated that.
Dr. Jeffrey Chambers: The sooner we do interventions to open the artery, unclog the blockage, the less heart damage there is. Every minute, your mortality goes up. Every 10 minutes, your mortality probably goes about one percent.
Tom Burling: When they start hammering heart, you think, "Let's pick one of the big hospitals." But Dr. Star said, "No, you need to get to the place the quickest that can do the procedure." He did a great job of counseling.
Remember, Mercy is a facility I've not been to before, and I was very impressed, very impressed.
Dr. Jeffrey Chambers: We've developed a rapid transport system – patients get medications and into an ambulance very quickly and on their way to Mercy Hospital. While the ambulance is driving, a team is setting up here in the cath lab.
It's really an extremely coordinated system – everyone involved. It starts with the triage person, EKG tech, the physicians at Buffalo – they have a special kit with the right medications. The HUC calls the ambulance. We have a special pager system. Everyone's mobilized. It really is an impressive effort to see.
Tom had two blockages. One artery was totally blocked, the other about 80 percent.
This is Tom's actual angiogram. You can see this – I'll freeze it here. This is the tube we put up the leg. These are the two arteries. As you can see the artery stops right there. Totally blocking blood flow to this part of the heart – normally there should be blood flow down here. And here's after we are all done – look at that – just like new.
Tom Burling: If we had waited or continued to wait or if i would have ignored it, I probably wouldn't be having this conversation today. They (my doctor) said a couple more hours and I'd have been dead.
Dr. Jeffrey Chambers: The Buffalo ED has been fabulous to work with. We are all the same team. I look at it as if we are all one program – same heart program at Buffalo, at Unity and Mercy. We do things the same way – we meet on a regular basis to improve quality, we have the same protocols. Buffalo has done a great job, in fact they are one of the best in the system at identifying the heart attack, getting the correct medications in and getting the patient transported as quickly as possible – they are extremely efficient and we are excited to work as part of their team.
Tom Burling: I was very pleased with my care. Very pleased. Again for you to tell me it was only 11 minutes – wow, a lot happened in 11 minutes, a lot – not only with me.
Rainer Pensky: If you ever have to go to Buffalo Hospital – I would recommend it to my best friend, which I did.