Palmetto Health Heart Hospital patient Tom Hill says he was treated like family after suffering a heart attack and receiving record-breaking care.

STEMI (which stands for ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction) is the most dangerous type of heart attack involving a sudden blockage of one of the three coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. Without blood, the heart muscle will die. Palmetto Health Heart Hospital has set the standard of care for patients experiencing cardiac emergencies. It was the first hospital to establish the STEMI Alert System in the Midlands. Through collaboration with EMS services in Richland, Lexington and other surrounding counties heart attack patients can have their cardiac information sent directly from the ambulance to the emergency department personnel prior to the patient's arrival.

The driving force behind this endeavor is to save lives. Getting treatment quickly is crucial to surviving a STEMI. The STEMI Program drastically reduces the diagnosis and treatment times of cardiac patients, specifically those suffering from this deadly type of heart attack, by allowing the hospital to react faster, prepare for the patient's arrival and cut down on the time from the initial 911 call to the patient entering the catheterization lab.

The national standard is to have a cardiac intervention done within 90 minutes of the patient entering the hospital with a heart blockage. Hospitals call that "door-to-balloon time," representing the balloon-like angioplasty procedure done on many patients to open the blocked artery. "This program represents a complex, finely coordinated team effort of nurses, physicians, pharmacists, medical technicians, lab technicians, and administration dedicated to getting the patient into the catheterization lab as quickly as possible," says Palmetto Health Heart Hospital and Columbia Heart Cardiologist Don Alexander. "That's what this program is all about — to get that blocked artery open as fast as we possibly can."

Palmetto Health Heart Hospital's STEMI Alert Program is part of South Carolina Mission Lifeline: a state-wide initiative to ensure heart attack patients receive the highest standard of care. Patients transported to Palmetto Health Heart Hospital consistently have their coronary arteries opened in well under the recommended 90 minutes.

As a result of this life saving system, studies have demonstrated that patients have their symptoms relieved quicker, experience less heart damage and have better long term outcomes and quality of life. Many medical professionals believe 'Time is muscle when dealing with the heart.'

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