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  • Writer's pictureJustin Marlang

Henry Mayo celebrates heart attack response: ‘We don’t walk — we run’

JUNE 21, 2021

In the midst of the pandemic, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital and its Los Angeles County Fire Department partners celebrated achieving a “door-to-perfusion” time of 45 minutes, which is 15 minutes quicker than the 60-minute national standard.

To re-establish blood flow to the heart and open blockages in the coronary artery, cardiac doctors use a procedure called Percutaneous Coronary Intervention, or PCI. The faster this treatment is delivered, the better the chances of survival and minimizing long-term damage to the heart muscle, according to doctors.

“The reason that we’ve achieved this achievement is because every single member in the hospital involved in this program is aware of the implications of every minute that goes by,” said Dr. James Lee, medical director of the hospital’s cardiac cath lab.

Since the hospital was designated a STEMI (heart attack) Receiving Center in 2013, its heart attack-response team has been diligently working toward cutting down the time it takes patients to receive the PCI treatment.

“Today, we perform everything from minimally invasive interventions to open heart surgery and cardiac rehab rehabilitation,” said Marlee Lauffer is the president of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation. “And as part of that, we built a team of specialists who absolutely put their heart into ensuring that this community has the very best of cardiovascular care.”

The hospital’s team is continually finding areas to improve and save time, according to Dustin Ashenfelter, the director of emergency services, which includes a mobile EKG that allows doctors at the hospital to see a patient’s transmissions before they even arrive at the hospital, Avakian added.

Tamar Avakian speaks at an event held to announce that the hospital’s STEMI Receiving Center achieved a “door-to-perfusion” time of 45 minutes. June 17, 2021. Bobby Block / The Signal.

The success of the hospital’s STEMI program is possible through its collaboration between emergency department staff, cardiac cath lab, the Roberta G. Veloz Cardiovascular Center staff and Fire Department, among others, according to Dr. Tamar Avakian, manager of cardiovascular services at Henry Mayo.

“That shared commitment to excellence is really what drives the quality of our program,” Avakian said. “Everybody here is truly mission driven, and I think we have something unique here in Santa Clarita Valley. … Everyone here is really invested.”

The team recognizes that these patients are friends, family, co-workers, teachers and valuable members of the SCV community, Lee added.

Santa Clarita Mayor Bill Miranda, left and Councilmember Marsha McLean join officials from Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital at an event held to announce that the hospital’s STEMI Receiving Center achieved a “door-to-perfusion” time of 45 minutes. June 17, 2021. Bobby Block / The Signal.

“And because we recognize that, every single member of this team is dropping everything they’re doing at that moment — we’re not walking to this hospital, we’re running to this hospital,” Lee said, adding that staff are on-call 24/7. “And this is recognition of all those efforts from all those people.”

Included in those recognized Thursday was community philanthropist Roberta Veloz, whose donation to the hospital about a decade ago helped to start Henry Mayo’s cardiac program.

“It’s unbelievable,” Veloz’s son Peter said of the hospital’s achievement. “I think sort of joking, sort of serious, she would have said, ‘It’s great, congratulations, and I expect you to keep growing and keep getting better.’ That’s just her. … She would have given everyone that sort of encouragement.”


Writer: Emily Alvarenga

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