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Star 80

Star 80 Ensures Fast Response

Eighty minutes or less - that's Memorial's goal for treating heart attacks. From patient arrival in the ER to the moment treatment begins, the speed of our dedicated emergency and cardiac response teams is ranked among the best in the country.

The time it takes to re-establish blood flow to the heart is critical in saving the patient's life. Ninety minutes is the standard recommended by the American College of Cardiology to minimize damage to the heart muscle. Memorial Medical Center's "Star 80" team has achieved results that rank in the top 10 percent of all hospitals nationwide.

When Every Minute Counts

As a registered nurse with years of experience in cardiac care, Bill Ferrell knew what he was in for when he awoke to crushing chest pain in the early morning of November 2009.

"I immediately took an aspirin, and my wife called 911," said Ferrell, a 49-year-old Springfield resident with a family history of heart problems.

By the time the ambulance arrived, Ferrell couldn't stand or talk. Emergency medical technicians sent his electrocardiogram (EKG) directly to a physician, and he was diagnosed with acute myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack, before he even reached the hospital doors.

"I was always aware of what was going on," he said. "I've been a nurse long enough to know every second counts."

Within 42 minutes of arriving at Memorial Medical Center's ED, Ferrell was transported to the Cardiac Cath Lab and received a stent in his blocked artery, which brought immediate relief by restoring blood flow to his heart.

The quick care Ferrell received was a result of Memorial's Star 80 program, a team effort among caregivers and physicians in the ED and Cardiac Cath Lab to open the heart blockage in patients suffering heart attacks within 80 minutes or less. During a heart attack, every minute spared is heart muscle saved, so time is a crucial factor in ensuring a patient can resume normal activity after he or she heals.

Memorial's target "door-to-balloon" time has been 80 minutes or less since March 2008. Previously, the team's goal had been 90 minutes or less, which is the national standard set by the American College of Cardiology.

We were meeting 90 minutes so often, we went to 80 to shave additional minutes for patients," said the director of emergency medical services. "The teams from the ED and the Cath Lab, along with the physicians involved, have such ownership in the process that they just go into action. And there's great trust among all groups."

Memorial is a top performer in the state for its door-to balloon times and continues to seek ways to improve the Star 80 process, said Karen Baur, RN, BSN, MPH, NE-BC, director of cardiovascular services.

"We have successfully committed resources to continually make improvements in the process for a long time," she said. "You know you are making a difference when you are saving heart muscle. It means a great deal to the entire team."

Ferrell now spends three days a week in Memorial's Cardiac Rehabilitation department and regularly uses a treadmill at home. He made changes to his diet and resumed his full-time job as a registered nurse at Springfield Clinic. Ferrell said he now makes every effort to live in the moment and enjoy time spent with his wife, Lynne, and their two sons.

"This past Christmas I looked at my family and realized this could have been their first Christmas without me," he said. "I'm here because of the treatment I received, and I'm so grateful."

Rural Hospitals Ready to Respond

While patients in rural settings don't have quick access to a catheterization lab, the emergency departments in Lincoln and Taylorville are equipped to meet the crucial 90-minute door-to-balloon time.

The treatment protocol is used for patients experiencing a certain type of heart attack. They are diagnosed and stabilized within 30 minutes and then transported to the cath lab of a larger hospital to receive life-saving angioplasties. Doctors from both hospitals work as a team to prevent damage to heart muscles.

With the protocol in place, patients get an angioplasty within 90 minutes - the time recommended by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association.