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Tom Burling thought he had heart burn. But when it proved to be a heart attack, he was fortunate to be near Buffalo Hospital's emergency room. His story shows how Buffalo Hospital works with Mercy Hospital to save lives with timely heart care.
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.
Shelley Simkins, Buffalo Hospital Emergency Department manager: "He came in. We activated our STAT team and started the 12 lead EKG. We knew immediately that he was having an acute MI (heart attack).
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: 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.
When you are hurt or don't feel well, you want quick attention. At Buffalo Hospital, we have the shortest wait times in all of the Twin Cities.
Our team of emergency doctors and nurses are ready to care for you with the most advanced lifesaving equipment and technology available.
Our doctors, part of Suburban Emergency Associates, PA, have a proven record for consistent, impressive improvements in patient outcomes, wait times and patient satisfaction. We also have a wide-range of specialists on call, including orthopedics, cardiac care, neurological and several others.
Time is critical
In an emergency, every moment is critical. It's important to get to the closest emergency department.
Buffalo Hospital has earned a reputation for quick, expert care. If a higher level of care is needed than what is available, our emergency team immediately begins tests and treatments, stabilizes you and arrangs transportation by ambulance or helicopter as needed.
If you need a prescription before going home, InstyMeds, an automated system that dispenses prescriptions, is available in our lobby.
As a non-profit hospital, we treat all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.
What to expect at the emergency department
Emergency department care team members you may see include (left to right) Darren Huber, MD; Margo Binsfield, registered nurse; and Jeffrey Hill, MD.
It's helpful to understand what takes place when visiting the Emergency Department (ED). We are committed to providing excellent, timely care. Our first priority is to save lies, so the most severely injured or ill patients are seen first.
Your care team
During your visit, your care team may include an emergency doctor, a registered nurse, medical or radiology technician and a laboratory technician.
In most cases, one visitor at a time is allowed at your bedside. This will allow your medical needs to be met and privacy maintained.
Relatives and friends are asked to remain in the emergency lobby area unless their presence is absolutely necessary for your care. Staff will keep friends and family informed about your care and treatment as much as possible.
Why are some people seen sooner than others?
We are committed to providing you with excellent patient care, no matter what your illness or injury. Because our first priority is to save lives, the most severely injured or ill patients will be seen first. If you are asked to wait but begin to feel worse, please tell the nurse right away.
Why can't I eat or drink while I'm waiting?
You might be asked to refrain from eating or drinking because your physical condition may require testing or surgery. After the doctor evaluates you, please check with the doctor or your nurse about eating or drinking.
How long does treatment take?
Treatment time depends on each individuals health condition. Buffalo Hospital's average time from arrival to see a doctor is about 30 minutes, and typically, patients are on their way home within two hours from arrival.
If you have a complicated health problem, you may be in the emergency department for many hours. Your health problem may require numerous tests and your doctor may need to consult with specialists.
If your illness or injury is life-threatening, it may take several hours to stabilize you condition. You may be transferred to another Allina Health hospital or need to be admitted to Buffalo Hospital for ongoing care.
Why did I have to wait when the staff did not look busy?
Staff and doctors are waiting for diagnostic test results and often can't proceed with other treatment or diagnosis until the test results are available.
How can I get my medical records if I need them?
You can pick up copies of you medical records from Health Information Management (medical records) at Buffalo Hospital. Please call 763-684-7818, in advance, so your records can be prepared for you. You will need to sign a release of information form before receiving the records.
You can also access and download portions of your health records through MyChart.
Why can't you tell me what this will cost?
Unless a diagnosis is performed, we cannot tell you exactly what the estimated cost will be. After the doctor evaluation occurs, he or she dictates a report describing your care. Once the report is transcribed, charges are electronically posted to your account. The charges can be obtained in about two to three days after your visit. Be advised that along with the hospital bill, you may also receive bills from the Emergency department physician group, radiologist and pathologists (lab).
Who can help me if I have a concern or would like to comment about my care in the emergency department?
We welcome your questions and concerns - they help us improve our care. If you do not feel comfortable talking with the staff who treat you, you can speak with the Service Excellence coordinator, charge nurse, Emergency department manager or director.
Why can't I get any medical advice over the phone when I call?
Unlike your primary doctor, the emergency department staff is not familiar with your medical history, general health, or health care concerns; therefore we cannot provide accurate information related to treatment or diagnosis over the phone. We will always be glad to see you in person in the emergency department.
Did you know signs and symptoms of stroke may last a short time and disappear? A stroke is a medical emergency, so don't delay in getting help.
Buffalo Hospital is deemed stroke ready by John Nasseff Neuroscience Institute. This includes offering immediate stroke intervention and management using clot busting (thrombolytics) medications.
Telehealth brings expert stroke care close to homeStroke patients at Buffalo Hospital have 24-hour access to stroke care experts at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
Community Health Topic: Stroke
Learn about recognizing, diagnosing and treating a stroke from Christine Delmonico, MD, Emergency Department, Buffalo Hospital, in these Community Health Topic public service announcements.
Part 1: Recognizing stroke - signs and symptoms
Use the FAST test to recognize and respond to the signs of stroke.
Learn more at allinahealth.org/stroke.
Part 2: Delay in treatment for stroke
Why do some patients delay treatment for stroke?
Part 3: Different types of stroke
There are two types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Learn more about causes and types of strokes.
Part 4: Risk factors for strokes
Risk factors increase your chance of having a stroke. Your doctor can help you determine your risk factors -- what you can and cannot control. Learn more about risk factors and prevention.