Casselton man’s rush to catheter lab prevents heart damage after attackRyan Radermacher’s remarkable recovery owes everything to speed – the short span of time in rushing him to a Fargo hospital, where doctors opened his artery with balloon angioplasty, preventing heart damage.
By: Patrick Springer, Forum Communications
FARGO - Ryan Radermacher spent more than 30 minutes on a treadmill and elliptical cardio-exercise machine Thursday.
That’s not especially noteworthy – except that less than a month earlier, the 45-year-old farmer suffered a heart attack that could have killed him or left him with debilitating heart damage.
“I feel great,” he said, dabbing perspiration from his forehead after finishing his cardiac therapy session. “I feel like nothing happened.”
“He’s back at full speed,” his wife, Kim, added, noting he had spent nine hours combining soybean fields on their farm northwest of Casselton the day before.
Radermacher’s remarkable recovery owes everything to speed – the short span of time in rushing him to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, where doctors opened his artery, preventing heart damage.
In his case, Radermacher was whisked by helicopter ambulance to the catheter lab at Sanford Medical Center, where a procedure called a balloon angioplasty opened the blocked blood vessel.
Experts recommend that heart attack victims receive artery-opening procedures within 90 minutes of hospital arrival. Sanford’s goal is 60 minutes.
The time in Radermacher’s case: 38 minutes. That was the culmination of a series of steps that expedited his trip to the cath lab, beginning with the Radermachers’ quick decision to call for an ambulance.
His symptoms began on the hot and humid afternoon of Sept. 1, when he took a break while repairing farm machinery. He started to perspire heavily, even though he wasn’t exerting himself, and felt dizzy.
He decided to go to his house to cool off and rest, suspecting heat stroke. Then he felt pressure in his chest and pain in his arms.
He went upstairs. Kim saw his face was pale, and asked what was wrong. They quickly decided to call the ambulance.
“I didn’t play tough guy on that one,” said Radermacher, who is a volunteer firefighter and former ambulance volunteer. “I knew better.”
The Casselton emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene, followed by paramedics from F-M Ambulance.
The F-M Ambulance paramedics had a portable heart monitor that allowed them to diagnose a severe cardiac blockage – Radermacher needed to get to the hospital immediately.
There, a team led by Dr. Thomas Haldis, a cardiologist, was standing by. “He’s got a death-’o-gram,” Haldis said, recalling his reaction to the electrocardiogram reading that revealed the severe coronary artery blockage.
The angioplasty procedure to open the artery takes 10 or 15 minutes, Haldis said, so the real challenge is getting the patient in as quickly as possible.
North Dakota ranks low in meeting the 90-minute standard, but a new initiative will improve those results, producing more outcomes like Radermacher’s, said Mindy Cook of the American Heart Association in North Dakota.
“The 90-minute goal is not being met in our state on a routine basis at all,” she said.
A $4.4 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, along with funding from the state of North Dakota and major medical centers among others will provide portable monitors allowing medical responders to quickly diagnose coronary artery blockages.
More than 100 of the monitors, which each cost about $25,000, will be distributed to rural ambulance services around the state. Each of the state’s 43 hospitals will also be equipped to receive test results from the field monitors via cellular phone networks.
The whole system will be fully in place within three years, Cook said. The state’s six major medical centers have been working on the initiative, but Sanford Medical Center in Fargo and Trinity Medical Center in Minot have been at the forefront, she said.
Nationwide, more than 90 percent of heart attack patients with severe coronary artery blockages have opening procedures within the 90-minute window. Only five years ago, less than half did, according to the American Heart Association.
Radermacher’s heart was not damaged. He will not need a coronary bypass, or medication. Without such quick attention, Haldis said, Radermacher might have developed heart failure, a costly and debilitating condition that severely restricts patients’ lives.
“He’s functioning normally,” Haldis said. “He could go run the half-marathon.”
Radermacher plans to continue his cardiac exercise regimen after he completes therapy. Kim knew he would recover as soon as she saw him, after his emergency angioplasty had been finished, and he gave her a crop report based on what he saw on the air ambulance ride to the hospital.
“You know, honey,” he said, “the crops look just as bad from the helicopter as they do from the pickup.”
“That’s how I knew he was OK,” Kim said, “because he still has his sense of humor.”
The article comes from The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, like the Herald a Forum Communications Co. newspaper.