HEALTH

D.C. ambulances get life-saving technology

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Nearly one-million Americans suffer a heart attack every year, according to the CDC. Now D.C. doctors can diagnose patients straight from the ambulance.

In a conference room at the Capitol, Daniel Peterson suddenly started sweating.

“I had all of the classic symptoms: a real tightness in the chest, a tingling in the arms, shortness of breath and profuse sweating,” he says.

Peterson, an art curator from Toronto, was having a massive heart attack.

“I wasn’t so much afraid as I was puzzled about what was happening,” he says.

That’s when a colleague called 911. A D.C. ambulance took him from his meeting on Capitol Hill to the emergency room at George Washington University. He was helpless, but never scared.

“I didn’t feel panicked ever. I always felt something was happening.”

A new technology allowed an EMS team to send Peterson’s EKG to Dr. Jonathan Reiner’s cell phone. As Peterson’s ambulance rushed to the hospital, Dr. Reiner was diagnosing a blocked artery and prepping for surgery.

“We actually know about the patient before they even leave the scene," says Dr. Reiner. “We’re already configured to go so they essentially go from the ambulance to the treatment room.”

Thanks to a $100,000 grant from The Wireless Foundation and George Washington University Heart and Vascular Institute, 50 D.C. ambulances now have the same technology.

“Time is really important and the sooner you treat a patient who is having a heart attack the better their chances are of survival,” says Dr. Reiner.

For Peterson, it was life or death.

“I literally went from the back of the ambulance to the operating table and if they hadn’t done that I don’t know that I would be here,” he says.

Peterson is slowly recovering. He quit smoking, walks every day and eats healthy. He says he feels better than ever.

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