Here’s information to have ready before you need emergency stroke or heart care

If you are ill or are with someone who is, having medical emergency information ready beforehand can be critical.

If you or someone you’re with is experience stroke or heart attack symptoms, call 911 right away. Paramedics can start delivering lifesaving treatment as soon as they arrive. If you are ill or are with someone who is, having medical emergency information ready beforehand can be critical.

If you’d like to choose which hospital the ambulance takes you to, let your preference be known

Tell the emergency medical technicians to take you to the most appropriate hospital that is a certified stroke center or a chest pain center.

When did you first notice symptoms or when was the last time you remember being symptom-free?

If you know when your symptoms started or if you witnessed the start in someone else, this can be critical information for guiding treatment. Even if you don’t know when symptoms started, the “last known well” time without symptoms — before bed the night before, for example — can help emergency care providers decide the treatment you receive. Another handy time marker may be what you were watching on broadcast or cable television.

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Keep a list of your conditions, medications and other information on the refrigerator or your phone

A detailed medical history, including any recent major surgery, and current medication list are among the important information paramedics and emergency room physicians and nurses will need before making treatment decisions.

The front of the refrigerator or your cellphone’s lock screen are places emergency medical technicians often will look for this information.

Here’s what to include:

  • Your name
  • Address and phone numbers
  • Birth date
  • Blood type
  • Any recent major surgeries
  • Chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure or anything related to your heart, lungs or brain
  • Current medications
  • Allergies
  • Social Security number
  • Health insurer and group number
  • Physicians
  • Emergency contacts

In addition to writing down emergency contacts, it’s good to have handy the cellphone number of someone close to you who knows your situation, medical history and when you last were well — whether a family member or not. A cellphone number can be especially important, as the EMTs may need to contact this person while you are on your way to the hospital.

EMTs will alert the hospital that they are on their way, and once you arrive, the team will be moving very quickly to begin diagnostic tests. Health care providers will be looking to get accurate information from you or someone close to you.

When you call 911

Don’t hang up, and be sure to follow the dispatcher’s instructions. The ambulance will be sent immediately, even as the dispatcher continues speaking with you. Unlock the door if you can.

If you have pets that may try to attack a first responder or escape through the open door, secure them if you can. Otherwise, alert the dispatcher so the EMTs can be prepared to secure the pet and prevent added chaos that can distract them and add to your stress.

Symptoms of Stroke — BE FAST*

  • Balance — loss of balance, coordination or dizziness
  • Eyes — having trouble seeing or change in vision in one or both eyes
  • Face — uneven smile or face looks uneven, droopy or is numb
  • Arms — one arm drops when raising both arms; numbness or weakness in one arm
  • Speech — trouble speaking; slurred or difficult speech
  • Time — Note the time when symptoms start: Time lost equals brain lost.

*Adapted from Intermountain Healthcare. BE FAST was developed by Intermountain Healthcare, as an adaptation of the FAST model implemented by the American Stroke Association. Reproduced with permission from Intermountain Healthcare. Copyright 2011, Intermountain Healthcare.

Symptoms of a heart attack

  • Uncomfortable pressure or squeezing in the center of the chest that goes away and comes back, or continues more than a few minutes
  • Pain that spreads to one or both arms
  • Pain or discomfort in the back, jaw, neck or stomach accompanied by pressure in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat, nausea or vomiting, combined with any of the above symptoms

If You Believe You Are Having a Heart Attack, Do Not Wait to Get Help

Call 911 or have someone take you to the nearest hospital emergency room. After calling 911, you can:

  • Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed by your doctor.
  • Take aspirin, but only if prescribed by your doctor. Aspirin can interact with other medications and should be taken only when advised by a medical professional.

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