MONROEVILLE, Pa. -- Every minute counts during a heart attack.
Recognizing that fact, Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville plans to donate portable defibrillators on Jan. 15 to 10 ambulance companies in its service area that have the capability of transmitting hospital-quality EKG readings from ambulances to the emergency room.
"Time is (heart) muscle," said Gary Harvat, manager of pre-hospital systems at Forbes Regional. "The quicker you get information to the hospital, the quicker (hospital personnel) can activate the catheterization lab."
Harvat was on hand Monday at the Plum Emergency Medical Service station, one of the ambulance companies scheduled to receive defibrillators. Harvat and EMS officials were riding through the borough yesterday to check the signal reception with the defibrillators, which weigh about 14 pounds. The EKG information is transmitted via wireless technology, Harvat said.
In addition to Plum, four ambulance companies in Monroeville and one each in Jeannette, Penn Hills, Penn Township, Pitcairn and Trafford will receive defibrillators. The machines cost about $28,000 each, Harvat said.
Hospital officials said the donation is part of a $24 million initiative to improve heart care. The hospital plans to open the Ed Dardanell Heart and Vascular Center in March. The center, named for one of its earliest supporters, will include a cardiac catheterization lab.
Ambulance company personnel are eager to start using the technology.
"These will assist us in treating people with heart attacks, in getting them to the proper cardiac care as quickly as possible," said Doug Cole, chief of Monroeville No. 4 Volunteer Fire Co.
Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is caused by a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart, and often results in a heart attack.
Each year, about 1.1 million Americans suffer heart attacks, and about 460,000 of them are fatal. About half those deaths occur within one hour of the start of symptoms and before the person reaches a hospital.
"It's going to affect patients who have cardiac symptoms," said Tom Izydore, operations manager of Plum Emergency Medical Services. "It will allow the crew to transmit the EKG to the hospital so (emergency room doctors) can be prepared for the type of patient coming in and have the facilities ready."
If a patient wants to go to a different hospital, Forbes can transmit the EKG information there, Izydore said.