80-year-old Ron Avery poses for a photo with his train set.“It felt like a truck was lying on my chest,” said 80-year-old Ron Avery. “My wife did the smartest thing by calling an ambulance right away. From that point, all the pieces came together to take care of me as quickly as possible.”

Ron and his wife live more than 30 miles from Grand Rapids. But the distance was not a problem, thanks to some serious collaboration. First, the ambulance arrived, quickly performing an electrocardiogram, which measures the electrical activity of the heart and indicates a change in rhythm. Next, Ron was rushed about a mile down the road to Pennock Health Services in Hastings. The emergency department repeated the ECG, confirming the findings of the ambulance ECG.

Immediately, Ron was given the standard protocol medications for a particular type of heart attack called a “STEMI.” It stands for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction—a mouthful of words we hope you never need to use.

Ron’s emergency doctor called Spectrum Health Direct, where he was connected to cardiologist Duane Berkompas, MD, at the Meijer Heart Center. After just 28 minutes in the Pennock Health Services ED, Ron was on his way to the Spectrum Health Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center.

In the meantime, Dr. Berkompas was calling in the catheterization lab team at the Meijer Heart Center, preparing for Ron’s arrival. As soon as Ron arrived, he was taken directly to the cath lab. Dr. Berkompas and the team were waiting.

They opened a totally blocked right coronary artery and used a stent to keep it open. After deciding that Ron’s blood pressure was too low, the team also inserted a balloon pump to help take some of the workload off his heart. Ron was moved to the cardiothoracic critical care unit.

Ron’s door-to-balloon time from the point of arriving in the Pennock Health Services ED to having his artery opened was 81 minutes. His fantastic result clocked in well below the 120-minute national goal for STEMI transfer patients and also beats the goal of 90 minutes for patients who arrive directly in the emergency department at Butterworth Hospital.

“The community hospitals in our network know exactly what to do to get the ball rolling and quickly get the patient transferred,” said Dr. Berkompas. “The entire process represents an incredible team effort—the ambulance, the regional hospital emergency departments, the cath lab staff.”

Ron recovered well and went home two days later—in time to spend Christmas with his family.