I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was a senior in high school. I had just got home from track practice and was in my bedroom looking over college brochures. The sound of my mom yelling for me to come downstairs pierced the silence. In the living room, my dad sat hunched over on the couch, gasping for breath, clutching at his chest. “Get in the car,” my mom said. “We’re taking your dad to the hospital. I think he’s having a heart attack.”
Of course we should have called 911. Paramedics would have rushed him to the hospital, treating him on the way. But instead, I sat in the back of the minivan trying to remember every detail as my dad meticulously described his medical history and allergies; things he knew were vital for treatment but wasn’t sure he’d be able to relay to doctors and nurses.
We were lucky. At the hospital, testing revealed it wasn’t a heart attack, but doctors did discover high blood pressure and a partial blockage in a coronary artery. They gave us a stern lecture about calling 911 and sent my dad home with recommendations to reduce stress and change his diet and exercise.
We were also fortunate to have a nearby hospital able to correctly diagnose and treat heart conditions. In 2000, the American Heart Association launched Get With The Guidelines, programs designed to help hospitals adhere to the latest scientifically-proven treatment guidelines. By partnering with more than 2,000 hospitals – nearly half of all U.S. hospitals and many in the ProMedica health system – deaths from heart disease and stroke have declined by 36%.
Studies show that hospitals implementing American Heart Association/American Stroke Association quality improvement programs improve patient outcomes, reduce average length of inpatient stays and decrease readmissions. To date, Get With The Guidelines has touched the lives of more than six million patients.
I’m grateful that my dad was able to get the care he needed and that he’s taken his heart health seriously since. I’m even more grateful to know, should any other family or friends need similar care, there are hospital teams at ProMedica and around the country working to ensure similar outcomes.
Sean Dreher has been the communications director for the Toledo and Northwest Ohio Division of the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association since 2015.