CLEVELAND — In honor of World Heart Day, the Cleveland Clinic released a new study showing updated protocols for treating patients with heart attacks are dramatically reducing deaths in men and women, including Lydia James.
James remembers not feeling well suddenly while at work on Sept. 16. She says she felt nausea and worsening heartburn.
“I thought something viral was going on because I felt nauseous and then the vomiting came,” she said. “So, I sat down for a minute and I was waiting for it to pass and it wouldn't let up.”
Her co-worker, who happens to be a nurse, recognized the symptoms and realized Lydia was having a heart attack.
She called 911.
“I still didn't realize I was having a heart attack,” James said.
However, this wasn't a normal heart attack. After life-flighted to Cleveland Clinic, doctors told James she experienced the most severe kind, an ST-Elevated Myocardial Infarction (STEMI), which impacts one million women each year.
“Women, when they have this type of heart attack, have much worse outcomes, they're much more likely to die than men, and they're also much more likely to have serious complications after the heart,” said Dr. Umesh Khot, Head of Regional Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
Khot explained STEMI can cause a long interruption to the blood supply, which is caused by a total blockage of the coronary artery. So, under protocol doctors put a stent in James’ arm.
“For me, the experience was it wasn't very invasive,” James recalled.
Khot led a recent study. It found the stent in James’s arm has reduced deaths in female patients like her by more than 50%
But that’s not all.
“What our findings say is that it's also impacted by how the health care system responds to when women show up with this heart attack,” she explained. “We really wanted to create what we call a high-reliability system, meaning that whenever a patient shows up, no matter when at the middle of the night or wherever within our system, within Northeast Ohio, they'd get the same high-quality care all the time.”
Those findings forcing change in emergency room protocol to allow quality care and faster care for women like James.
“We made the emergency department have clear guidelines on how they could get the Cath lab activated. We had a checklist that told everyone what their roles were,” Khot said.
James has recovered and vowed to live a healthier lifestyle. She and her family still coping with the day she almost lost her life.
“They would have been burying me on my birthday. My birthday was Sept. 22,” James said. “I’m glad that's not my story. I'm glad I have a chance to do things better.”