If you live on the Galveston County mainland and you think you are having a heart attack or a stroke, there is only one smart thing to do: Call 911.

I guess the only exception to this would be if you were in a car about five minutes away from the hospital.

I talked to an acquaintance recently about her trip, in a relative’s car, past Mainland Medical Center and up to one of those Clear Lake places. She took her life in her hands that day.

And here’s why.

In the recent past, a worker at one of the local plants was up on a high ladder obviously in bad trouble health wise. Two co-workers climbed up and determined he was probably having a heart attack. At the least he was really sick.

At that plant, they have a truck with a platform that rises up in the air, so they used that to get him down. In the meantime, someone called 911, and the paramedics were at the plant when he came down from his perch.

They ran a test from the ambulance to the hospital, where a doctor immediately read it, pronounced it a heart attack and alerted the whole treatment team of people, including the heart specialist, to be on hand when the man got to the hospital.

The bottom line was within 36 minutes of the time they ran the test, the man was on the table in the cath lab, getting a balloon run through his artery by the doctor. The whole episode, from the plant rescue truck to the operating room, took 48 minutes.

And all the information put out by hospitals, ambulance people and the American Heart Association tells us that time is of the essence.

Debra Bauer, chief nursing officer at Mainland Medical Center, and Trey Frankovich, EMS director for the Galveston County Health District, shared the program at the most recent meeting of the Community Advisory Committee. They told the rescue story.

Their statistics are pretty impressive.

Mainland Center opened in 1952 after the Texas City Disaster proved the people on the mainland needed closer care. That year, the first baby was born there and the first patient was also a baby, a 10-month-old, Bauer said. The hospital is built on 131⁄2 acres donated by Maco Stewart.

The hospital was increased to 223 beds in 1961. At that time, a psychiatric unit and an intensive care unit were opened.

The hospital now has 787 employees and 170 doctors.

There are an average of 40,000 visits each year to the emergency room.

The hospital has provided $109 million in uncompensated care.

There are all kinds of interesting sections, including a sleep center and a bariatric wound care center.

The people at Mainland Center are leaders in cardiac care. They are working on primary stroke accreditation.

They claim the shortest wait time in the emergency room — an average of 10 minutes.

One of their mottos is “Don’t Drive — Survive.” A reminder, if you are experiencing heart attack or stroke symptoms, to call 911 first. Let them get you where you need to be.

I know from personal experience that they don’t mind a false alarm.

Cathy Gillentine is a columnist for the Daily News and can be reached at cgillentine1@sbcglobal.net.

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