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.