American Heart Association and Mission: Lifeline initiative working to improve quality of care in South Carolina

December 5, 2008

Forum focuses on system response to diagnosis and treatment of STEMI heart attacks

COLUMBIA, SC – December 2, 2008 – The American Heart Association is unveiling the latest in a nationwide program that has already helped save the lives of South Carolinians. Mission: Lifeline is a collaborative partnership between the AHA, South Carolina Hospital Association, South Carolina Chapter of American College of Cardiology, South Carolina Chapter of the College of Emergency Physicians, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Office of Emergency Medical Services, all 17 of the South Carolina hospitals that provide interventional cardiac services and patient advocate representatives.

During an educational forum Tuesday at the William L. Yates Conference Center in Columbia participants heard from national speakers who discussed how the community-based program works to quickly activate the appropriate chain of events critical to opening a blocked artery to the heart that is causing a ST Elevated Heart Attack, also referred to as a STEMI heart attack.

“It’s a tremendous effort,” says Tim FitzGerald, Administrative Director of Palmetto Health Heart Hospital. “I am proud to be a part of it. We have the potential to lead the nation and be a state that has a fully regulated STEMI system.”

In 2005, 12,693 South Carolinians died from cardiovascular disease – more than the total number of people who died from all cancers, pneumonia, influenza, and car accidents combined. Mission: Lifeline consists of early recognition by patients and bystanders of heart attack symptoms; early activation of 911; training of EMS Personnel; ensuring EMS responders are equipped with 12 Lead ECGs (it takes a 12 Lead to identify a STEMI); and identifying hospitals that have services available 24/7 to open the artery and routing patients to these hospitals.

Gilbert resident Donald Smith suffered a heart attack on October 31, 2008. He says heart disease runs in his family, but he had no warning signs that he had a 100% blockage, until he experienced chest pain and sweating. 60-year-old Smith was undergoing surgery just 35 minutes after EMS arrived at his home; well under the recommended AHA/ACC guidelines of 90 minutes.

“I’m grateful to the emergency workers,” Smith said Tuesday. “They were proficient, didn’t waste time and knew what they were doing. Given the circumstances, they couldn’t do any better.” Smith added that without the quick response time he wouldn’t be alive today.   

Tuesday’s forum also included the formal unveiling of the new SC logo (above).

For more information about Mission: Lifeline visit

South Carolina Mission: Lifeline is part of the American Heart Association’s community-based national initiative to improve quality of care and outcomes in heart attack patients by improving the health care system’s readiness and response to ST Elevation Heart Attack (STEMI) patients. The goal is to reopen the blocked artery as soon as possible.  The longer the heart muscle is deprived of blood flow the more it dies.