Snoqualmie firefighters try to raise heart-attack awareness

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Many people who experience the beginning signs of a heart attack, and even those who are in the middle of an attack, often dismiss the symptoms or confuse them for other ailments, such as heartburn. When this occurs and the victim fails to call 911, serious heart damage can occur, as well as death.

Because of the mystery surrounding heart-attack symptoms and the lack of knowledge of what to do when pain strikes, local fire departments, including the Snoqualmie Department of Public Safety-Fire Division, are taking action.

In the next few weeks, firefighters will deliver packets that contain lifesaving information and aspirin to area seniors. The packet is called the Heart Attack Survival Kit (HASK), and is part of a health campaign to promote heart-attack awareness. The program is sponsored by Public Health of Seattle and King County, Medic One emergency medical service and fire and paramedic departments all over the county, including Snoqualmie. It was funded by the National Institute of Health.

Firefighters are looking forward to getting out into the community and sharing heart-attack knowledge.

"It's always fun to talk to the seniors, to meet them and see where they live. We want to make sure all the seniors get this information," said Lt. Mike Bailey, Snoqualmie firefighter.

Firefighters will deliver the packets in person to go over the information and answer questions. The packet contains information on heart-attack symptoms, a pamphlet that recommends calling 911 and taking aspirin when chest pain occurs and a form on which to list medical history and current medications, in case of emergency. Firefighters received a list of city residents age 65 and over who will receive the packet. Letters were mailed ahead of time to let the recipients know about the program.

"There's a lot that can be done if a heart attack is caught in time," Bailey said. He added that the patient must call 911 as soon as possible for emergency personnel to help. It is recommended that someone who feels they are having a heart attack should not wait, but call within 15 minutes of the onset of symptoms. In addition, the campaign suggests taking an aspirin when experiencing heart-attack symptoms, as the medicine can help open a blocked artery and reduce the size of a heart attack.

The program's goal is to increase 911 calls for chest pain among seniors, and to increase self-administration of aspirin for chest pain.

The heart-attack kit's information is still available to seniors who do not receive it from a firefighter. Those interested in the information should call the Snoqualmie Department of Public Safety-Fire Division at (425) 888-1551.

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