Ryan Radermacher North Dakota

The rural Casselton farmer, Ryan Radermacher, knew something was wrong. The afternoon was hot and muggy, but not enough to cause heavy sweating. He’d been repairing some sugar beet equipment, preparing for upcoming harvest, nothing too strenuous.

“I was wringing wet. Every pore was sweating,” says Ryan, recalling Sept. 1, 2011. “I went into the house to cool off. I was sure I had heat exhaustion or heat stroke.”

While his wife, Kim, checked with the ask-a-nurse phone line, another symptom emerged. Ryan felt pressure in his chest and aching in his arms.

“That’s when we knew we needed to call 9-1-1,” says Ryan. “A heart attack is not the time to play Mr. Tough Guy.”

Calling 9-1-1 activated a team that responded with a finely tuned response.

For the next several minutes, the Radermacher farm became the center of activity. A first responder arrived, taking Ryan’s vitals and giving him oxygen, several other ambulance services followed.  They all worked together in a well-practiced, coordinated effort to rapidly connect Ryan with the high-level care he needed.

“It was a little different being on the patient-side of things,” says Ryan, who served 25 years as an emergency responder.

On-the-scene steps occurred quickly and efficiently:

  • Administration of medication to address chest pain.
  • Administration of an ECG to initially assess for a heart attack
  • Instant communication of ECG results to PCI center 45 minutes away  that determined he was having an acute heart attack
  • Preparation for quick transport via LifeFlight ambulance to intercept with the ground ambulance

 “Part of me couldn’t believe this was happening,” says Ryan. “I was 45, harvest was a month away.   Really? A heart attack? Now?”

A well-prepared heart team was waiting for Ryan.  Advanced tests in the cardiac cath lab showed Ryan had a complete blockage in his right artery. Angioplasty cleared the blockage, and then a stent was inserted to help keep it open.

A two-day hospital stay followed, then several weeks of outpatient Cardiac Rehab.

Today Ryan practices what he learned at Cardiac Rehab: he exercises regularly, takes heart medication as directed, follows a heart-healthy diet and gets his checkups.

“That heart attack put a scare into me,” he says. “Now I really try to take care of my health and I take the time to enjoy life. Family comes first. Going through this experience definitely changed my outlook.”

He reflects on the rapid response that saved his life. “It’s pretty amazing,” he says. “From the EKG in my driveway to the stent in the cath lab, it took just 38 minutes. Because of that, I’m here, I’m feeling great and I have no heart damage. That’s impressive.”

The rapid, well-coordinated response to Ryan’s heart attack exemplifies Mission Lifeline, a nationwide collaboration of the American Heart Association to improve response to ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI).

The most deadly type of heart attack, STEMI occurs when blood flow is completely blocked to a portion of the heart. The blockage can best be resolved with angioplasty, but it must take place quickly. National standards call for 90 minutes or less for optimal success.

Do your part!   If you or someone you’re with is having a possible heart attack, do not delay.

“When your body is telling you something, you better listen,” says Ryan. “Don’t tough it out. Call 911 and get the help you need.”

Ryan is living proof: Mission Lifeline works!