Life-saving cardiac program celebrates one-year anniversary

Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010 is a day that 59-year-old Bowmanville resident Gary McCormack won’t soon forget. While watching television that evening with his wife Joan, the father and grandfather suddenly felt a pain in his jaw that soon went to both of his arms. He was having a heart attack.After his wife quickly rushed him to the emergency department at Lakeridge Health Corporation’s (LHC) Bowmanville hospital campus, he was immediately seen by a cardiologist there. Following an immediate electrocardiogram (ECG) confirming a heart attack, and after thrombolytic, or clot-busting medication was administered, he was quickly transported by Durham Region Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to the Rouge Valley Centenary (RVC) coronary care unit (CCU).

During that transfer, Durham EMS had to use a defibrillator twice to revive Gary after he went into cardiac arrest. At RVC, interventional cardiologist, Dr. Christopher Li, and the cardiac care team provided emergency cardiac care to Gary. This involved defibrillating him when he went into cardiac arrest yet a third time, and then performing an angioplasty, where a stent was implanted. The next day, Gary was transported back to LHC, where he could recover closer to his family.

“On behalf of my wife and my family, I want to thank all of those involved for helping to save my life. Without their hard work and expertise, I wouldn’t be here. I am so grateful for what they did for me,” says Gary. This June, he plans to celebrate his 60th birthday the best way he knows how; at his cottage north of Kingston, surrounded by his family.

Stories such as Gary’s were celebrated during the first anniversary celebration of Rouge Valley Health System’s fast-track cardiac care program on April 28. The program, called Code STEMI, is offered to both east Toronto and Durham communities.

This program came together as a result of an innovative partnership between RVHS, LHC, The Scarborough Hospital (TSH), Durham EMS, Toronto EMS and the Central East Local Health Integration Network (CE LHIN) working collaboratively to offer gold standard cardiac care to the patients of east Toronto and Durham.

“Gary’s story is just one of the many success stories this program has seen. It’s gratifying for our team to see that, through the combined efforts of our teams at RVHS, Durham EMS, Toronto EMS, LHC, TSH, and the CE LHIN, patients like Gary are given a new lease on life. It’s also great to know that this partnership has worked successfully to save so many lives. We look forward to continuing to provide life-saving cardiac care,” says Dr. Saleem Kassam, interventional cardiologist, and medical manager, cardiac catheterization services, RVHS.

The fast-track cardiac program first began in February 2009 as a pilot project serving patients in Scarborough. In April 2010, the program was endorsed by the CE LHIN and was expanded to service Durham Region. Since 2009, more than 600 patients have received this life-saving treatment.

The program provides percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), or angioplasty, within a short period of time after a patient presenting with cardiac symptoms arrives in the emergency department, allowing more lives to be saved.

In the event of specific types of heart attacks, LHC or TSH’s emergency department team will call RVHS to activate the Code STEMI response. The service can also be activated by the EMS when the patient calls 911. The patient is then transported immediately via ambulance to the RVHS cardiac catheterization lab, located at RVC in east Toronto, for an angioplasty. Following the angioplasty, the patient is returned to the hospital that is closest to their home for ongoing care and recuperation. The patient then participates in a cardiac rehabilitation program following their discharge from hospital.