Three numbers can save your life or a loved one: 9-1-1
It doesn’t take a trained cardiologist to know that calling 911
can be the difference between life and death when it comes to a
sudden heart attack or stroke. Calling 911 is common sense.
And, the symptoms of stroke can be very difficult to identify
with certainty. A study of admissions to the University of
Cincinnati Hospital revealed that over half of admitted stroke
patients did not realize they were having one. Someone who
has had a small stroke may experience only minor effects such
as weakness in a limb.
But according to Dr. David Sperling, a cardiologist practicing
at Marin General Hospital, that advice is often ignored by well-
meaning patients who underestimate or repress their symptoms.
Driving oneself to the hospital, or convincing your spouse or
neighbor to do so can waste critical time that could be used to
initiate therapy, he says. An ambulance
is like a moving emergency department.
A paramedic trained Emergency
Medical Technician or Paramedic
can immediately begin to assess your
condition, and institute appropriate
medical and potentially life-saving
measures while directly communicating
with a physician at the emergency
department. By the time you arrive, the
emergency staff is already prepared to
offer therapy that will minimize risk of
But thrombotic stroke can be deadly or devastating. It
This head start may well determine
occurs when a blood clot blocks flow through an artery to an
area of the brain. Once this occurs,
cells start to die within minutes and
neurologic problems such as speech
impairment, dizziness, numbness or
weakness develop rapidly. Depending
on the severity and location, rapid
implementation of “clot busters” can
greatly improve outcomes by restoring
blood flow to the affected area.
whether you survive and fully recover
from the attack or whether you are left
with permanent injury.
How do you know whether to make
The symptoms of a heart attack may not
be obvious. Typically, one feels tightness
or pressure in the central chest, but
occasionally shortness of breath, severe
sweating, abdominal pain or fainting
may be the symptoms. Women tend to
develop less typical symptoms so the
diagnosis may be less obvious.
Doug McConnell didn’t realize he was having
a stroke until his hand went numb. Luckily,
he arrived at Marin General Hospital’s
emergency room before serious damage
occurred. Now, he is taking the advice he
gives others: “Eat well, sleep well, monitor
your cholesterol and live a quality life. And
if something is out of the ordinary, pay close
attention to it.” He is thankful that there
is a highly qualified stroke center nearby.
“We need to make sure it continues to be
available,” he says. “I’m so very, very lucky
that Marin General Hospital is right here.”
Dr. Sperling emphasizes that in both
heart attack and stroke, delaying time
to treatment can have devastatingly
adverse effects and reduce the chance
of full recovery. Medicines and vascular
interventions work best if delay to
therapy is minimized. The majority of
people receiving timely treatment make
complete recoveries and are able to
resume their normal lifestyles. When in
doubt, make that call.
In summary, if you experience onset of
cardiac or neurologic symptoms:
1. CALL “911.” Don’t wait.
Do it now.
2. If you’re not on daily aspirin,
chew one as soon as possible
(aspirin is a “blood thinner”
that aids in dissolving clots.)
3. If you’re alone, call a neighbor
or family member to help.