Calmar women grateful for local cardiac care.

Dianne French benefits from Winneshiek Medical Center Cardiac Rehabilitation.
Dianne French benefits from Winneshiek Medical Center Cardiac Rehabilitation. Dianne (seated) is pictured with Cardica Rehab staff Shirley Hubka (left) and Kim Wilmes, RN.

Everyday symptoms lead to unexpected heart attack

It is not often a person can suffer a heart attack, be transferred by ambulance and helicopter, have a stent placed in her artery and come away with no heart damage. But such was the case for 69-year old Calmar resident, Dianne French. Laure Rausch, PS, paramedic specialist with Winneshiek Medical Center Ambulance responded to Dianne’s 911 call. She says, “We answered a page by Winneshiek County dispatch for the WMC Ambulance and South Winn First Responders in Calmar area for a female, unconscious, but breathing. The signs and symptoms were all too familiar of a possible stroke, heart attack, or both, but everything worked just the way it is supposed to. Timing was perfect, and through collaboration between paramedics, first responders and ER staff along with new technology, Dianne not only survived a heart attack but came away without any heart damage.”

Earlier that day, Dianne attributed the pain in her back to painting hand-crafted Christmas ornaments. Although she intended to finish after dinner, the increasing ache in her back encouraged her to put project away for the day. Once upstairs and settling in to a quiet evening with her husband, Phil, Dianne began to notice that her back ache was traveling across to the front of her body. Phil, a former heart attack patient, knew right away that she was experiencing more than discomfort and immediately called 911. Dianne says, “After Phil called, I went to change my shirt – I still had paint on me – and comb my hair. As I stepped out of the bathroom, I fell to the floor and remember very little after that.”

What Dianne missed was the arrival of South Winn First Responder and Winneshiek Medical Center Emergency Department Nurse Cheryl Hotvedt, RN – also, as irony will have it – Dianne’s daughter. Her expertise in emergency situations, along with established working relationships with other emergency responders, helped to stabilize her patient – and mother – as the ambulance arrived.

“When the ambulance arrived, my colleague, Ben Pfile, and I attached the 12 Lead EKG patches to Dianne’s chest to determine the state of her heart,” says Rausch. The ability to transmit 12 Lead EKG readings is a new addition to the Winneshiek Medical Center Ambulance. Fund raising efforts by the Winneshiek Medical Center Foundation and surrounding communities purchased the new emergency technology for such situations; Dianne was one of the first patients to benefit from it. “The 12 Lead can pinpoint what is going on with the heart, and even determine what part of the heart is being affected,” says Rausch. “With the new transmission capabilities, the data is sent back to the Emergency Room physician to confirm the diagnosis and plans can be made for continued care before we even return with the patient.”

In Dianne’s case, Mayo One was called to do a life flight to St Marys in Rochester. “From the time we carried Dianne through the ER doors to the time she was stabilized with clot-busting medications and transferred to the helicopter, it was less than 45 minutes,” says Rausch. “She is an incredibly lucky woman.”

Dianne agrees wholeheartedly. “The skills of the emergency responders, ER staff and physician, and of course, my daughter, saved my life. I am forever grateful for all they did for me and feel lucky to be alive to share my story with others.”

Dianne’s message to other women is simple: don’t ignore signs of a heart attack. Get medical attention right away – if it turns out to be nothing, that’s ok. “If I had waited any longer, my story would not have a happy ending. I urge all women to know the signs of a heart attack, listen to their body and take action. It may save your life.”

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