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38 Minutes to Life

Ryan Radermacher knew something was wrong. The afternoon was hot and muggy, but not enough to cause heavy sweating. He’d been repairing some sugar beet equipment. Nothing too strenuous.

“I was wringing wet. Every pore was sweating,” says Ryan, recalling Sept. 1, 2011. “I went into the house to cool off. I was sure I had heat exhaustion or heat stroke.”

While his wife, Kim, checked with Sanford’s nurse phone line, another symptom emerged. Ryan felt pressure in his chest and aching in his arms.

“That’s when we knew we needed to call 911,” says Ryan. “A heart attack is not the time to play Mr. Tough Guy.”

A finely tuned response

For the next several minutes, the Radermacher farm near Casselton, N.D., became the center of activity. A first responder arrived, taking Ryan’s vitals and giving him oxygen.

Others followed including Casselton Ambulance, FM Ambulance from Fargo, and air ambulance Sanford LifeFlight. All worked together in a well-practiced, coordinated effort to rapidly connect Ryan with the high-level care needed.

“It was a little different being on the patient-side of things,” says Ryan, who served 25 years on the Casselton Fire and Rescue Squad.

On-the-scene steps occurred quickly and efficiently:

  • Administration of medication to address chest pain.
  • Administration of an EKG to initially assess for a heart attack
  • Instant communication of EKG results to Sanford Fargo Emergency Center
  • Preparation for quick transport via Lifeflight
  • “Part of me couldn’t believe this was happening,” says Ryan. “I was 45, harvest was a month away and I’d just gotten married. Really? A heart attack? Now?”

    A well-prepared heart team

    A nine-minute flight brought Ryan to Sanford Heart Center in Fargo. Interventional cardiologist Dr. Thomas Haldis and the cardiac cath team had already been alerted.

    “I arrived at Sanford and everything happened so fast,” says Ryan. “There was no hesitation. Every person on that team knew exactly what to do.”

    Advanced tests in the cardiac cath lab showed Ryan had a complete blockage in his right artery. Angioplasty cleared the blockage, then a stent was inserted to help keep it open.

    “It was instant relief when that artery opened,” says Ryan. “All I can compare it to is getting your finger pinched in a door and how great it feels when the door opens.”

    A two-day hospital stay followed, then several weeks of outpatient Cardiac Rehab.

    A bright future

    Today Ryan practices what he learned at Cardiac Rehab: he exercises regularly, takes heart medication as directed, follows a heart-healthy diet and gets his checkups.

    “That heart attack put a scare into me,” he says. “Now I really try to take care of my health and I take the time to enjoy life. Family comes first. Going through this experience definitely changed my outlook.”

    He reflects on the rapid response that saved his life. “It’s pretty amazing,” he says. “From the EKG in my driveway to the stent in the cath lab, it took just 38 minutes. Because of that, I’m here, I’m feeling great and I have no heart damage. That’s impressive.”

    The power of Mission Lifeline

    The rapid, well-coordinated response to Ryan’s heart attack exemplifies Mission Lifeline, a nationwide collaboration to improve response to ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI).

    The most deadly type of heart attack, STEMI occurs when blood flow is completely blocked to a portion of the heart. The blockage can best be resolved with angioplasty, but it must take place quickly. National standards call for 90 minutes or less for optimal success.

    Sanford Heart Center has been at the forefront. In addition to offering advanced treatments, Sanford works closely with others across the region to ensure every step leads to best possible outcomes.

    Posted Date: May 2013