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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My letter concerns a letter in your column. It was written by a woman who had suffered a heart attack and was driven to the hospital by her husband.

I have been a paramedic for 18 years. It is important your readers understand that attempting to drive yourself or a loved one to a hospital is a bad idea. The 911 emergency number was put in place to help the sick and injured in a timely manner. Most citizens are not aware of the capabilities of their local emergency medical services agencies.

Today, paramedics bring the emergency room to the patient's home. We are capable of treating chest pain and, in many cases, of diagnosing a heart attack in the patient's living room. This information is relayed directly to the emergency room, where a doctor can assemble a cardiac catheterization team to promptly treat the heart attack when the patient arrives. (Not every hospital can provide cardiac catheterization, so we offer the patient a choice to go directly to a properly equipped facility.) In addition, we administer medications immediately.

The biggest delay in receiving prompt care is delay in calling 911, due to denial. "Time is muscle" is our saying. The more time you waste, the more heart muscle is damaged. The average person driving someone to a hospital cannot treat the person, and also tends to speed and drive in an unsafe manner. Please inform your readers, Abby. -- PAUL TOSCINO, WATERVLIET, N.Y.

DEAR PAUL: Thank you for the valuable reminder that 911 is for life-threatening emergencies, and the expertise of the technicians can mean the difference between life and death.

DEAR ABBY: My 3-year-old daughter was recently invited to a birthday party for two of her classmates (twins). The party is scheduled for a weeknight from 6 to 8:30 p.m. -- the time I have set for bath time, story time and lights out at 8 p.m.

Would I be rude and insensitive if I do not permit my daughter to attend? I don't want to offend the mother, but I don't want to rev my child up with sugary party snacks and activities right before a late bedtime. -- CONFUSED IN TEXAS

DEAR CONFUSED: Rude and insensitive? No. Rigid? Yes. I'm willing to bet that the mother of the twins is a working woman, and the party would be earlier if it was possible. I see no harm in bending the rules or flexing your daughter's schedule once in a while. Of course, you will be going with your daughter to the party, so monitoring what she eats should be a cinch. Feeding your daughter a healthy meal before the party should ensure that she won't overdose on sugar. I say, let her go.

DEAR ABBY: When my 12-year-old daughter spends the night somewhere other than home, I don't sleep well. When she goes away to camp for a week, I hardly sleep at all. I am not up all night pacing the floor, worrying about her -- I just can't sleep.

My sister tells me that this is not normal. Am I abnormal for losing sleep when my daughter is away? -- SLEEPLESS NEAR SEATTLE

DEAR SLEEPLESS: No, you are not abnormal. You are a vigilant parent. Many parents cannot sleep unless they know their children are safe in their own beds and under their own roof.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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