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STEMI Conference in Bozeman

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March 1, 2017

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936

                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391


DPHHS, American Heart Association to host STEMI Conference in Bozeman

Participants to hear from heart attack survivor T.J. Hanes of Billings


T.J. Hanes of Billings will tell his personal heart attack survivor story on Thursday, March 2 at about 9 a.m. to attendees at the third annual STEMI Conference and Resuscitation Academy at the Baxter Commons located at 1794 East Baxter Lane in Bozeman.

Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and Mission: Lifeline Montana chairman Douglas Waldo, MD of Great Falls Benefis Health System will kick off the conference beginning at 8 a.m.

“In many ways, this conference is a celebration of the great cardiac work taking place in Montana,” said Lt. Governor Mike Cooney. “We are very fortunate to have multiple outstanding cardiac initiatives happening simultaneously in Montana. These efforts are saving lives, and I’m so proud of the progress that is being made.”

The conference is co-sponsored by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). The event is part of the ongoing effort to implement the AHA’s Mission: Lifeline and the DPHHS Cardiac Ready Communities initiatives.

Nearly 200 physicians, physician assistants, nurses, EMTs and others involved in cardiac care from around the state will attend the two-day conference. Breakout sessions focus on the use of the 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) unit, best practices of STEMI (ST-elevated myocardial infarction) care and protocols, how to improve outcomes for STEMI patients, the impact of Cardiac Ready Communities, how to strengthen the Cardiac Chain of Survival and more.

A STEMI is caused by the sudden, total blockage of a coronary artery. It carries a substantial risk of death and disability and calls for a quick response on many fronts. A STEMI can be quickly recognized using a 12-lead EKG; however, not all EMS vehicles responding to 9-1-1 calls are equipped with this technology.

Dr. Eric Lowe of Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital is one of many conference presenters. Dr. Lowe's presentation at 10 a.m. on March 2 will focus on how both large and small Emergency Medical Services (EMS) implement STEMI equipment and protocols.

“We have made tremendous progress in Montana and across Gallatin County in improving outcomes for patients suffering a heart attack,” Dr. Lowe said. “The new technology that has been made available to prehospital EMS agencies and fire departments and to health care facilities such as Bozeman Health, plus the training this conference provides, is truly invaluable.”

The conference touches on initiatives already underway in Montana.

AHA is in the process of implementing Mission: Lifeline. The initiative helps identify gaps that lead to slower and less effective cardiac patient care. The program works with healthcare providers in Montana to close those gaps through changes in protocols and processes and by providing resources such as life-saving equipment. The program goal is to create and help the existing statewide system of care to improve the quality of care and outcomes for patients who suffer a STEMI.

Mission: Lifeline Montana chairman Douglas Waldo, MD, FAAC of Benefis Health System in Great Falls, said the initiative is making a huge impact in the state. Waldo said since 2014, the MT STEMI mortality rate has been cut in half, from 6.7% to 3.7%. The national STEMI mortality rate is 6.2%.

DPHHS is implementing Cardia Ready Communities. The Cardiac Ready Communities initiative works to enhance many essential elements of the Cardiac Chain of Survival, including a public education campaign on heart attack signs and symptoms and the need to activate the 9-1-1 system; citizen hands-only CPR; public access defibrillation programs; training on high performance CPR for ambulance services and hospitals; and a system-wide data tool for quality measurement and improvement.

According to Janet Trethewey of DPHHS Emergency Medical Services, the program has saved a total of nine lives, and she’s confident even more will be saved in the future. “Every community - every person - can do something to strengthen the Cardiac Chain of Survival and improve the chances of someone whose heart has stopped beating,” Trethewey said.

The centerpiece of the Cardiac Ready Communities initiative was the distribution of 222 automatic compression devices, called the Physio-Control LUCAS 2 Chest Compression System. Since the program launched, every Montana community that has an organized EMS service with the staff and vehicle to respond has received a Lucas device.

Both initiatives are funded through grants from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.


Who: Lt. Governor Mike Cooney; Mission: Lifeline Montana Chair Douglas Waldo, MD, FACC, Great Falls; Joani Hope, Mission Lifeline Montana Director, Billings; T.J. Hanes, heart attack survivor, Billings; numerous presenters from the state’s medical field.
What: Third annual STEMI Conference

When: Thursday/Friday, March 2-3

Where: The Baxter Commons, 1794 E. Baxter Lane, Bozeman


T.J. Hanes, heart attack survivor story

It started out as a normal spring day in 2015 for T.J. Hanes.

The Billings man, age 50 at the time, was at the local shooting range participating in a rifle shooting competition.

However, soon after his arrival, he began to experience symptoms of what later turned out to be a heart attack. At the time, he just knew something was wrong, but he wasn’t sure exactly what was happening.

“I just felt weak and had no energy,” he remembers while walking back from the 300-yard targets. He had also been experiencing heartburn for a few days. 

Bystanders noticed Hanes was struggling, and took immediate action by calling 9-1-1. “They saved my life,” he said, noting that just moments before he called his wife for a ride – a near tragic move that would’ve delayed his diagnosis and treatment.

But for Hanes, that is only the beginning of his heart attack survival story. Fortunately, the ambulance dispatched to the scene was equipped with a 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) unit. The technology allowed the EMTs to diagnose Hanes was suffering the worst kind of heart attack, an ST-elevated myocardial infarction, or STEMI caused by the sudden, total blockage of a coronary artery.

Fortunately for Hanes, since the 12-lead EKG unit was in play, it meant the EKG could be transmitted directly to Billings Clinic so the facility’s catheterization lab could be activated prior to his arrival.

According to Joani Hope, director for the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline Montana, this was valuable time saved. “For every 30 minute delay in treatment, there’s a large increase in death risk,” she said.

Hanes said his experience has changed his life forever. He’s also thankful for all the efforts in Montana to improve cardiac care.

He said he now exercises regularly and has improved his diet. “This was really a wakeup call for me and my family,” he said. “My message for folks is prevention. Work hard to improve your overall health through diet and exercise. And, become educated about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.” 

Throughout the United States each year, nearly 931,000 people suffer heart attacks. About 250,000 of those patients suffer a STEMI. According to the DPHHS, 1721 people were hospitalized in Montana for acute heart attack in 2015, and of those, 614 were STEMIs.