Medical Emergencies

One of the challenges facing ambulance service personnel is determining whether any pertinent medical conditions exist in addition to the immediate emergency. The person being treated may be unconscious; and loved ones, if present, are under tremendous stress and may be unable to think clearly or trust their powers of recollection.

Firefighters / Paramedics responding to emergency situations can’t take time to locate patients’ cell phones to look for contact information, and Corvallis Fire personnel rarely look through patients’ purses or wallets for emergency contact info. Consider wearing a med-alert tag that has an emergency contact number. And, since many medical emergencies occur in the home, post a card on the front of your refrigerator for each family member, listing the following:

  • Name 
  • Age
  • Prescription medications and dosage information
  • Any pertinent medical conditions (such as Insulin-Dependent Diabetic or Diabetic - Not Insulin-Dependent; Pacemaker; etc.) 
  • Physician name and phone number
  • Information about any Advance Directives or Physician Orders
  • Name and phone number of person to contact in the event of an emergency

This information will help emergency personnel provide the best medical care as quickly as possible and in accordance with your wishes.

Warning Signs of Heart Attack

Heart attacks result from blood vessel disease in the heart. A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle itself is severely reduced or stopped. This occurs when one of the arteries that supplies blood to the heart muscle is blocked by an obstruction, such as a blood clot, that has formed on plaque due to atherosclerosis.

If the blood supply is cut off drastically for a long time, heart muscle cells suffer irreversible injury and die. Disability or death can result, depending on how much heart muscle is damaged.

Your body will likely send one or more of these warning signals of a heart attack:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes
  • Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck, jaw, or arms
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath

Not all of these symptoms occur in every attack. Sometimes they go away and return. Women are much more likely to experience symptoms that don't appear to be heart-related, such as:

  • Neck, shoulder, upper back, abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Unusual fatigue

If some of the symptoms listed above occur, get help fast. If you notice one or more of these signs in another person, don't wait! Call 9-1-1 to activate your emergency medical system.

Warning Signs of Stroke (brain attack)

Stroke is a form of cardiovascular disease that affects the arteries of the central nervous system. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain bursts or is clogged by a blood clot or other particle. Because of this rupture or blockage, part of the brain doesn't get the flow of blood it needs. Deprived of oxygen, nerve cells in the affected areas of the brain cannot function and die within minutes. When nerve calls can't function, part of the body controlled by these cells can't function either. The devastating effects of stroke are permanent because dead cells aren't replaced.

The warning signals of a stroke are:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body.
  • Sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in only one eye.
  • Loss of speech or trouble talking or understanding speech.
  • Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness, or sudden falls, especially along with any of the previous symptoms.

About 10 percent of strokes are preceded by "little strokes" (transient ischemic attacks or TIAs). Of those who have had one or more TIAs, about 36 percent will later have a stroke. In fact, a person who has had one or more TIAs is 9.5 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who hasn't experienced TIAs. Thus TIAs are extremely important stroke warning signs.

How can I tell if someone else might be having a stroke?

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify, and the ultimate determination should always be made by medical professionals. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness among the general population spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and act immediately. Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking several simple questions:

  • Ask the individual to SMILE and RAISE BOTH EYEBROWS.
  • Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.
  • Ask the person to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE.

If s/he has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

This information is provided courtesy of the American Heart Association.

Last updated: 12/31/2014 10:25:11 AM