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Nov 8, 2010 4:17 PM by Carina Corral

New system to treat heart attack victims saves the life of a Templeton firefighter

A new system in place on the Central Coast is saving the lives of heart attack patients.

It is called the STEMI system, short for one of the most critical types of heart attacks.

In August, both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties designated French Hospital Medical Center, Marian Medical Center and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital as STEMI Receiving Hospitals.

911 patients suffering from a STEMI heart attack go directly to one of these hospitals.

Templeton Firefighter Tony Broom is living proof the system works.

He is the pillar of health: young, active and healthy with no heart problems or family history of heart conditions.

So, no one could have predicted that two months ago he would suffer a major heart attack during a training exercise.

" Out of the corner of my eye I saw him go down and one of our captains was right next to him and I hear him saying 'Tony, Tony!' Sure enough he's laying on the ground and he had no pulse and wasn't breathing," said Templeton Fire Chief Jim Langborg.

Broom's fellow firefighters jumped into action and brought him back to life.

" If it weren't for... the help of my firefighters, I wouldn't be standing here today," said Broom, choking back tears.

The training exercise where Tony Broom had his heart attack was at the corner of First and Main Streets in Templeton.

Twin Cities Hospital is only a mile away, but instead of taking him there he was transported to French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, a good 25 miles away and that saved his life.

" Any delay in terms of identifying the problem and treating it would have only put him at risk for sudden death, again," said Cardiologist Robert Doria.

The STEMI system was put into place to minimize delays between the onset of symptoms to reopening the artery causing the heart attack.

" The longer that time the more irreversible damage that occurs," said Dr. Doria.

Before this system was put in place, STEMI patients would be transported to the nearest hospital, only to be subsequently taken to Marian, French or Cottage hospitals because they are the ones equipped to handle such emergencies. They have primary treatment and intervention capabilities, as well as having specialized equipment and physicians to support rapid treatment of STEMI patients.

Less than one percent of 911 calls on the Central Coast are STEMI cases, but to those few, like Tony Broom, it is a matter of life or death.

Firefighter Broom is expected to make a full recovery.

Click here to learn more about the STEMI system.

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