Firefighter Says Medics, Heart Protocol at Texas Health Plano Saved His Life|
PLANO, Texas — Jeff Hale was out saving people’s lives and homes during the early morning hours of April 4. But after fighting two fires, the Carrollton firefighter couldn’t ignore any longer the tightness and pain he felt in his own chest so he sought medical attention.
Captain Hale isn’t alone. Nearly half of all firefighter fatalities while on duty were from heart attacks, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
The 53-year-old, who has worked as a firefighter for nearly 20 years, had just had a physical the week prior and was cleared to work. “This just came out of the blue,” Hale said. While fighting the second fire, “I felt really exhausted. I stepped outside and at that point I started trying to get my gear off.”
Luckily, though, Lewisville’s Medical Unit #166, which was on the scene, transported him to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano. Along the way, his heart stopped and he lost consciousness.
“It’s nice to know the medics were there for me and they were well trained; we’re all a family,” Hale said.
What he didn’t know at that time is that in addition to using a defibrillator to get his heart started again, the medics activated a protocol whereby they wirelessly transmitted his EKG to the Texas Health Plano emergency department, which had a team ready to do the initial testing and preparation work to quickly move him to the cardiac catherization lab for treatment upon his arrival. In Hale’s case, this all took just 58 minutes, well under the recommended 90-minute window for successful treatment of these heart attacks.
“We are proud every time we are able to save a life by working with the medics and the emergency department team, but knowing that we saved another first responder makes Jeff’s case all the more special to our team,” said Dr. Mark Peterman, medical director of cardiology services at Texas Health Plano, who treated Hale.
According to the American Heart Association, warning signs of a heart attack include:
For now, Hale will take some time off before he returns to front lines fighting fires, but he is expected to make a full recovery with some help from medications and lifestyle changes to lower his cholesterol and blood pressure.
“I’m trying to make a lifestyle change here to continue on,” Hale said. “That’s the only way it’s going to happen – attack the stuff that is attacking me.”
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Doctors on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital.