It comes on gradually - some pressure, a tightness in your chest. Your arm begins to ache. You experience some dizziness and begin to break out in a sweat. Your spouse, a bit panicked from fear that you’re having a heart attack, wants to call an ambulance.
"Not now, Sweetie," you respond. “Don’t bother anyone just yet. Wait and see if it gets worse.”
Is that how you would respond? If so, you aren't alone.
According to a study reported in the medical journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, most people who experience those symptoms, even those who have been diagnosed previously with heart disease, wait to call for help. In fact, they wait more than two hours on average, decreasing the chance of a good recovery - or any recovery at all.
The intention of the study was to determine whether people could be educated to call for help right away when they experience heart-related symptoms. About 3,500 people participated, two-thirds of whom were male. They were taught to identify the various symptoms and conditions under which they should seek emergency treatment immediately.
But the results were actually quite disconcerting. Within the next two years, those who had been taught to call for help immediately still did not seek treatment any quicker than those who had not been trained.
We have to ask, what on earth were they waiting for?
According to the American Heart Association, there are three main excuses patients give for delaying a call for help.
• They don't want to bother anyone.
Emergency personnel, from those who staff ambulances, to the doctors and nurses in the ER, are employed to be bothered. As for patients' families, I suspect they are far more bothered by bad outcomes when loved ones don't call for help.
• They are embarrassed.
Far more embarrassing is the legacy of someone who has a stroke or heart attack and doesn't seek help in time. Death or debilitation, meaning loved ones must take care of every activity, means any sort of dignity may no longer exist.
• They are afraid their insurance won't cover it.
That may be a real concern in the United States. Of course, for those who die because they don't get help, it's of no concern at all.
These kinds of foolhardy excuses for not getting emergency help can make the difference between life, quality of life, and death.
Make a plan for emergencies, like heart attacks or strokes, today. Learn about symptoms, talk to your doctor, review with your loved ones, then – no excuses. Don't hesitate for a moment to dial 9-1-1 if you feel them coming on.
Reviewed July 26, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle