During the Mountain Disaster Preparedness group’s monthly meeting, President Mike Feyder began to express feelings of discomfort and some trouble breathing. The Idyllwild Fire Department crew was present at the meeting and began to administer aid, including blood-pressure checks and heart monitors. Within minutes, they wheeled him out of the Idyllwild Library’s community meeting room.
Fortunately, Feyder was acting ill, since the meeting’s subjects were the symptoms and immediate treatment for heart attacks or strokes.
As the meeting opened, nearly 45 people were in the audience and Feyder introduced the program. “Health on the Hill is also an emergency, not just natural disasters such as fires and earthquakes,” he said. “We’re nearly an hour away from the nearest cardiac center, and response time is critical.”
Gigi Kramer, one of MDP’s medical directors, described the most common symptoms of heart attacks and strokes. She, as a former emergency room and flight nurse, and everyone else who spoke during the session, stressed that the first action needs to be calling to 911.
“Every minute counts,” she said. Because of the distance to hospitals, she emphasized, “If you think you have a heart problem, call 911.”
Heart attacks diminish and, possibly, cut off flow of blood to heart muscles. A stroke is interruption of blood flow to the brain. There could be a clot in the vessels or a rupture and internal bleeding in the brain.
Heart-attack symptoms can vary, especially between men and women. Men often experience chest pain, described as an elephant or very heavy pressure on the chest. Arm pain, especially the left arm, can occur, along with a shortness of breath. Also, one’s face can turn pale from the lack of blood flow and sweat may break out.
Women can experience the same symptoms, but often the chest pain is less severe, but pain manifests in the jaws or shoulders. Also, nausea is a common occurrence with women.
“One third of the women have no chest pain,” Kramer stated.
“If you experience any symptoms, call 911,” she repeated. Don’t go to the fire station because the crew might not be there. Dispatch will alert an alternative ambulance.
She also recommended, for heart attack symptoms, chewing on aspirin until help arrives. These should not be enteric-coated aspirin; otherwise, try to substitute baby aspirins. For stroke symptoms, aspirin should not be taken.
For stroke symptoms, Kramer offered the acronym FAST to aid identification of a stroke.
F — Facial muscles will weaken, and the individual is likely to manifest drooping on one side of the face.
A — Arms should be held straight out in front of the body. If one is too weak to hold them steady, that’s another sign of stroke.
S — Slurring of speech is another frequent symptom, she added.
T — If these are occurring, it’s “time” to call 911.
Numbness on one side of the body also can be a stroke symptom.
Idyllwild Fire Capt. Alan Lott and his crew also were at the meeting. The current procedure for heart-attack or stroke victims is for the crew to contact air resources for transport to Eisenhower Center. Lott and Engineer Greg Minor stressed that this procedure will save valuable time, if weather permits. Otherwise, the Idyllwild ambulance will race the patient down the Hill.
“Call us. It’s our job here to take care of you,” Minor said. He also advocated that individuals should call 911 in case of heart palpitations. “These are not normal either,” he added.
A video of Tuesday’s session may be watched at MDP’s website, www.mdp-idyllwild.com/