CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The American Heart Association launched a new program Friday aimed at saving lives. It’s called Mission: Lifeline.

The goal is to educate the population about the symptoms of heart attacks, getting first responders and hospitals communicating via technology on the way to a medical center and then having a plan in place to treat the patient once they arrive.

Jennifer Smith/MetroNews

Mayme Roettig

Mayme Roettig, who grew up in Charleston, is a driving force behind the national program. She’s now a nurse at Duke University. She lost her brother to a heart attack when he was just 37. She said he didn’t have to die. First responders took him to the closest hospital for care but it ended up being a fatal choice.

“They could have taken him about 20 minutes down the road to a facility that had state-of-the-art equipment,” Roettig said Friday.

She helped create a pilot program in North Carolina that is now Mission: Lifeline which launched in 2008.

“It really is about making sure the system works,” she said.

She said the first step is to get people educated about what to do when they’re having chest pains. Roettig stressed they need to call an ambulance and get to the hospital. Currently 50 percent of West Virginians who suffer a heart attack drive themselves to the hospital or have family or friends do it.

Once a patient is in the ambulance, first responders need to send an EKG to the hospital via the latest technology and start planning where and how a patient needs to be treated. That means having a cardiac team waiting at the ER door when the patient comes rolling in.

“Wherever a patient comes in to the hospital, whether it’s out in Logan or up in Chelyan or the paramedics pick them up in Lincoln County, if everybody has a plan, we can get the artery open the best way possible and then hopefully return to those patients to their families and communities,” said Roettig.

She said everyone has to agree on the plan or Mission: Lifeline won’t work.

“You don’t need CAMC competing with Thomas or St. Mary’s competing with Cabell Huntington,” stressed Roettig. “Everyone needs to work together so this life-threatening event can be managed just like a trauma.”

She said on paper it sounds easy but getting everyone on board is the difficult part.

“Everyone knows what to do when somebody’s arm is cut off. Isn’t it crazy that we don’t always know what to do when the coronary artery is down, the most vital organ pumping blood to the whole body,” Roettig said.

She’s a firm believer if the large hospitals across the state sign on to the plan, the small hospitals will follow their lead. She said it’s saved lives in North Carolina. It will save lives here in West Virginia.

The American Heart Association met with medical leaders from across the state Friday to work on how all of West Virginia will implement Mission: Lifeline.

For more information about the program, log on to www.americanheart.org/missionlifeline.

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