SOUTH DAKOTA – Prepared Hospitals Can Provide Better Care ($8.4 million grant)

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally brings hundreds of thousands of bikers to the Black Hills each year. In 2013, a 54-year-old man began experiencing a heart attack during one of the busiest days of the event while at the Stone House Saloon, which is well outside the reach of a cell tower. The nearest ambulance service, Belle Fourche Ambulance, which is nine miles west of the saloon, was called via landline; first responders arrived about 20 minutes later.

Using their 12-lead electrocardiogram (also known as an ECG, and a process where electrodes are placed on the patient’s chest to assess the conduction of the heart’s electrical conduction system), the team quickly diagnosed an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) – a kind of heart attack caused by a blocked blood supply, and which demands an emergent response. As soon as the ambulance reached a cell signal, the ECG was transmitted to Spearfish Regional Hospital. Spearfish Regional is not equipped with a cardiac catheterization (cath) lab, where procedures to open blocked arteries in the heart are carried out. So the team prepared to administer thrombolytics (drugs that are administered during heart attacks to break down blood clots) before transporting the patient to Rapid City Regional, the nearest hospital with a Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) center, where coronary catheterizations are performed, about an hour away. Rapid City Regional had been notified and prepped their cath lab. The patient arrived and quickly received a drug-eluding stent in the right coronary artery. His blood flow was restored and he was discharged two days later.

Brian Hambek, Executive Director of the Spearfish Ambulance Service, was a member of the Mission: Lifeline task force and a prime advocate for the 12-lead ECG systems and training program in South Dakota.

“The Helmsley Charitable Trust grant gave small services, and some larger services, resources we couldn’t afford on our own,” he said. “It also provided agencies with some skills on the 12-leads and the transmission process. The hospitals now have a better heads-up on what’s coming in. Whether those in the field can read the report or not, the information is going to the hospitals and they know and can prepare for it. There are only seven PCIs in the state, and so when a rural hospital receives a STEMI patient, their turnaround of the patient is critical. The 12-lead system has cut time and time is muscle. We are saving patients’ lives. Helmsley is not only benefitting South Dakota but the surrounding states as well. Their cardiac mission is actually increasing survivability for local residents.”