MedWatch: Knowing the signs of heart attacks

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - When a person is having a heart attack, time is muscle. That's why several area hospitals work together with Comanche County Memorial Hospital's Heart and Vascular Center. For one Altus Doctor, it was her medical knowledge that helped her realize that she might be having a heart attack.

"It's not sharp. You can't touch it. It's so deep that you can't feel it or figure out where exactly it is, or is it even there. It's just in there,
says family physician Jamie Hokett when describing her pain from her heart attack.

It started in the middle of the night when she woke up feeling nauseous, weak, and hot.

"My husband turns on the lights and he keeps saying 'what's the matter with you?' And he said, 'You're clutching your left side of your chest.' Then I kind of realized I was, and he said, 'are you having a heart attack?' and I said 'well I can't, I'm only 42. I can't be having a heart attack,
’” says Hokett.

But she was. She had a blocked right coronary artery that was preventing oxygen from reaching her heart.

"A STEMI, is the one that's going to kill you. Or cause the most heart damage," ER nurse manager at Jackson County Memorial Hospital Cheryl Simco says.

Simco, says Dr. Hokett's EKG showed an ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction, or a STEMI, one of the more severe forms of a heart attack.

"We don't wait on paperwork or anything,
Simco says. We go ahead and put them in an ambulance and send them. Call report, and fax it over. That way we don't waste any time getting them where they need to be."

Dr. Hokett was transported to CCMH's cath lab, where a crew was already assembled and ready to work.

"I went straight to the cath lab,
says Hokett. I remember all the nurses coming and talking to me and prepping me. And then doctor Ivan came in and talked to me briefly about my symptoms and then the next thing, he woke me up showing me a picture of my blocked artery."

Dr. Hokett was treated in 107 minutes from the time she arrived at Jackson County Memorial's ER, to when she was out of the procedure. Because CCMH is so close in proximity to Altus, and a combined effort between hospitals, Hokett's heart was spared damage.

"If I didn't have a cath lab that close,
says Hokett. If we would have had to travel to Oklahoma City, or Tulsa, or wherever the next closest one, I would have lost heart muscle."

Dr. Hokett says the lesson to be learned, is that heart attacks can happen to anyone, and to be aware.

"If you have symptoms that you feel could be a heart attack, go get checked immediately,
says Hokett.  Don't wait, Don't ignore it. Don't think oh I'll just have a nausea pill and go back to bed. Because it can be the difference between life and death."

Common signs of a heart attack include nausea, weakness, chest pain, shortness of breath,and tingling in your left arm. Simco says if you notice abnormal pain in your neck, back or jaw, you should go see your doctor. Because it's better safe than sorry.

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