Metro hospitals earn special distinction for life-saving heart attack treatment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Every second counts when treating someone suffering from a heart attack.

On Tuesday, Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services gave 55 hospitals STEMI (ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction) Time Critical Diagnosis distinctions.

With the designated centers in place, state officials say people experiencing the most dangerous kind of heart attacks will get faster response times. That can make fore improved chances at survival and an improved recovery rate.

All of Saint Luke's five Missouri hospitals received the designation. Research Medical Center and North Kansas City Hospital also received top-tier designations. You can see all the recognized hospitals here.

Saint Luke's Hospital

Rick Worrel had heart attacks in 2014 and 2016 and received his care at Saint Luke's. The first one was minor and required one stent to be placed in his heart. The second was much more severe and happened during a 5K race.

"I was finishing the race. I was 50 yards from the finish line and dropped from sudden cardiac arrest mid stride," Worrel said.

People around him started doing hands-only CPR.

"I didn`t have a heart beat. I wasn`t breathing. I was non-responsive for 15 minutes," he said.

KCFD shocked him until he had a heart beat, and an ambulance rushed him to Saint Lukes, where he spent six days recovering.

"They threw ice bags on me right away," Worrel said. "That`s part of the protocol."

That protocol is what helped all five of Saint Luke's Missouri hospitals to earn the state's STEMI Time Critical Diagnoisis designation. Doctors quickly learned Worrel's "widow maker," or left anterior descending artery, was severely blocked and placed six stents in his heart.

Rick Worrel

"We as a level one, we have Cath labs. We`re able to intervene on heart attacks 24/7," said Doug Shelton, STEMI coordinator for Saint Luke`s Health System. "We have a team ready available all the time."

For the designation, Saint Luke's also has to communicate data with EMS providers.

"It`s a designation really to partner with our EMS that we can tell them where to bring heart attacks so they can recognize what`s going on with this patient, and then identify what hospital really will be able to meet their needs," Shelton said.

Worrel said he's thankful his needs were met at Saint Luke's and the care he received from staff. He was able to finish two 5K races in 2017 and 2018, keeping his heart rate in the low 120s.

"I think the thing to take out of that is I'm here to tell my story, and I think that`s pretty cool," Worrell said.