Skip to Main

MedWatch: Calling 911

It’s one of the first phone numbers we learn — 911.

We hear stories all the time about children saving a parent or caregiver because they didn’t think twice about calling when something happened, but adults aren’t necessarily doing the same thing.

Michelle Dunaway shares an important lesson in today’s MedWatch.

“I hear quite often, ‘We don’t want to bother you’,” says Daryl Case, I.C. paramedic.

“Don’t say, ‘Let’s wait and see if it gets better’,” advises interventional cardiologist James Fox, M.D.

“Denial is another big one. ‘It’s indigestion, it’s something else, it’s not a heart attack.’ And, unfortunately, a lot of times it is,” adds Case.


We all know it’s there in case of an emergency, but for whatever reason people aren’t always using it, and it’s killing them.

“You get one shot at some of these time dependent emergencies and we’d rather show up when a patients is nearly sick rather than when they’re in cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest survivability is less than 10 percent in most of the nation,” explains Case.

That means patients or their families should pick up the phone at the first sign that something is wrong.

“Whether it’s a heart attack patient that needs a cardiac catheterization or it’s a trauma patient that needs immediate surgery, minutes matter. Every minute that ticks by the organ, no matter what that organ is, is going to be damaged due to lack of blood flow,” says Case.

Some feel they save time by driving themselves, but the cost is care paramedics provide on the way.

“The cannot only identify what the problem is, they can call the hospital ahead of time so the personnel that might be necessary to help you can either be there, or be en-route, or have the equipment necessary already turned on and warmed up. So it markedly shortens the amount of time from when you’re first having a problem to getting taken care of,” says Dr. Fox.

And those paramedics are the first ones who want you to make that call — quickly.

“We want to get to people before they get that sick. It’s not a bothering thing, you take North Flight into account, they’re staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They’re waiting for these emergencies. We have the systems in place to take care of those, so we want people to utilize that system,” explains Case.

And if it turns out to be something that’s not too serious, that’s even better.

“We’re more than happy to use our system in place and treat you for the worse. If it’s something else, thank God. It’s not a big event, so this is easy,” says Case.