Covering the Land of Lincoln

For heart attack patients, timing is everything

heart illustration

To say time was of the essence for Tammi Fanson on July 18, 2022, would be an understatement.

The Gibson City, Illinois, woman had been dealing with high blood pressure, stress, fatigue and shortness of breath, but she chalked it up to life just being difficult. But on that day, she found herself at her local Gibson Area Hospital in the midst of a heart attack.

Fanson was then taken by ambulance to OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center in Urbana, Illinois – around 40 minutes on a regular drive but helped that with the blaring red lights. That, combined with the cooperation between the two hospitals, and Fanson was fast-tracked straight to the cardiac catheterization laboratory at OSF Heart of Mary, something Tammi and her husband Doug say saved her life.

“They knew me,” Tammi Fanson says. “They knew exactly what was going on. There must have been a lot of communication even before I got there. So it was very comforting.”

“The comfort that she had knowing this crew was waiting for her, it’s pretty remarkable,” Doug Fanson adds.

Fanson’s case is an example of the importance of what’s known as door to balloon time. That measures the time between when a patient has first contact with a medical professional to when a balloon is placed in their heart’s arteries to get rid of blockages and resume blood flow. For Fanson, she had a balloon within 27 minutes of arriving at OSF Heart of Mary.

“Time is muscle here in the cath lab,” says Jo Lehigh, a registered nurse at OSF Heart of Mary who was on Fanson’s care team. “Every minute that goes by could be tissue death.”

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