‘The entire medical experience was great all along’

John Mammen had finished mowing, showered and sat down for dinner on a late spring evening last year when a strange pain began to creep into his chest.

“I had this feeling, a pain I never had before,” said the 38-year-old father of two from Lincoln. “I lay on the bed to stretch out. I couldn’t kick it. I told my wife, ‘Something just isn’t right.’”

The former volunteer firefighter knew that when the pain had moved into his left arm, it was time to get to the closest hospital. After a fast diagnosis of a blocked artery at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department, John was transferred to Memorial Medical Center.

John received a life-saving angioplasty procedure within 80 minutes. He credits the excellent treatment he received from Lincoln and Springfield, combined with cardiac rehabilitation at ALMH, for kick-starting his new life.

“They immediately get you in there, and their whole team is involved,” John said. “We got to Memorial, and everybody was ready in the Cath Lab. The entire medical experience was great all along.”

For heart attack patients, the clock begins ticking when they enter an emergency department. According to national guidelines, “door-to-balloon” time — the time from when a patient enters the hospital to when the heart blockage is cleared — should be 90 minutes or less to minimize heart damage. A 30-minute delay increases the risk of dying by 42 percent.

Heart attacks occur when clogged arteries prevent enough oxygen and blood from reaching the heart. Annually, about 250,000 Americans suffer a major one like John, where a main artery is completely blocked. The best remedy is angioplasty, where physicians push a tube through the artery and inflate a tiny balloon to flatten the blockage. A mesh stent is inserted to keep the artery open.

Not all hospitals perform angioplasties and therefore must transfer patients. ALMH’s relationship with MMC means patients who present at the 25-bed critical access hospital in Lincoln can be stabilized and immediately transferred to MMC. The ALMH emergency team is prepared to quickly diagnose and transfer its approximately 20 heart attack cases annually.

“From the time they come through our door, we have 30 minutes to get them back out,” said Jeanne Dennis, manager of the ALMH Emergency Department. “In 95 percent of the cases, we’re faster than that.”

Since his heart attack, John, who has a family history of hypertension, has changed the habits that led to his heart trouble. He quit smoking, lost 40 pounds, gave up drinking soda and watches his fat and sodium intake.

John comes to ALMH’s cardiac rehabilitation program weekly during his lunch hour from his job as a warehouse manager. His heart rate, blood pressure and weight are all monitored.

“The cardiac rehab nurses are great,” he said. “Everybody’s been awesome, really friendly. They all really care.”

More patient testimonials like John’s are available in Memorial’s 2011 Annual Report.