In his 29-year career as a firefighter and paramedic with Eastside Fire and Rescue in Issaquah, Lieutenant Dave Jones has seen his share of heart attacks. One in particular caught him by surprise – his own.
Credit what Jones calls the “flawless” coordination of treatment by KVH Hospital, Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center, the medical transport service Life Flight Network, and Seattle's Virginia Mason Medical Center for saving his life.
“I had a 90 percent blocked main artery,” he says. “I was 90 percent dead.”
It happened on April 25, 2017. The 58-year-old Jones, who owns the Spirit Therapeutic Riding Center with his wife Evelyn, was at the fairgrounds riding his horse that afternoon. “I felt like I was coming down with something,” Jones says. “I was a little tired, a little short of breath. I felt cold so I put on a coat and kept riding.”
That night he couldn't eat dinner. “You need to get me in,” he told Evelyn a short time later. He was still in his boots and spurs when she pulled up in front of the emergency department door at KVH Hospital.
“How can I help you?” a woman standing outside the door asked. “I'm having chest pains,” he said. With that, Jones says, “the doors just swung open.”
The rapid response that followed is exactly what KVH shoots for, says Dede Utley, director of emergency services.
By the time Evelyn parked and hurried back to the emergency room, Jones was getting a 12-lead EKG and receiving nitroglycerin, a medication used to dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow to the heart.
“All of our staff is trained to grab that EKG machine as they walk the patient to the room,” Utley says. “Our goal is to get the 12-lead EKG within five minutes of them presenting at the window. The national benchmark is ten minutes but KVH decided to step it up because it's the first indication of something going on in the heart."
Placed on a nitro drip after oral medication failed to help, Jones also received a blood thinner and oxygen. Blood work showed elevated levels of a cardiac enzyme that indicates the heart is being damaged.
The emergency room doctor at KVH, consulting with a Yakima cardiologist, arranged to have him transported to Yakima where doctors performed an angioplasty, inserting a balloon to open the blocked artery, then ordered a Life Flight to Seattle.
“The crew was coming back from a mission to Idaho. When they got to Yakima, the Life Flight paramedics took over, unhooked me from the hospital equipment, hooked me up to their own. They were a hot shot crew. They did not miss a beat,” Jones says.
A 35-minute flight to Boeing Field and transport to Virginia Mason followed. By noon Wednesday, Jones was having bypass surgery. Within 24 hours of surgery he was out of intensive care and in a regular ward. Five days after his heart attack, he came home.
Determined to return to work, Jones bought a treadmill and began walking on it in his bunker gear an hour a day, half of that time carrying a 35 pound pack. He also walked three to four miles daily doing chores around his property.
Six weeks after his heart attack, a delighted Jones headed back to light duty. “I'm not going to let something like this take me out of something I love to do,” says Jones, who was cleared to return to work full-time about three months after his heart attack.
As for the way the system worked, “it was like clockwork,” he says. “I was impressed. The doctor at KVH did what he could do and realized he couldn't do anything more for me and immediately got me to Yakima. They stabilized me and got me to Seattle.
“I've been in the medical field a long time,” he says. “Glitches can happen. But that night everything at every point was flawless. It was phenomenal. They did their job perfectly.”