Nurse saves own life after self-diagnosing, treating heart attack

A 44-year-old nurse who worked at a nursing post in remote Coral Bay, Australia, saved his own life after diagnosing and treating his own heart attack, according to a case report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

When the nurse experienced heart attack symptoms, he was nearly 100 miles from the nearest medical facility and more than 600 miles from Perth, the nearest major city. In response to his symptoms, the nurse gave himself an electrocardiogram and emailed the results to an emergency room physician using Australia's Emergency Telehealth Service.

A number of other serious heart attack signs appeared on a second ECG the nurse emailed to the physicians. To treat himself, the nurse prepared his own intravenous line for treatment drugs, including clot-busters and painkillers.

He also "attached his own defibrillator pads and prepared adrenaline" as well as two drugs to correct his irregular heart rhythms, the report authors wrote. The vessel blockage driving the heart attack cleared, and there was a resolution of the irregularities on the ECG, as well as the nurse's symptoms.

These treatment steps allowed the nurse to have more time before emergency help could arrive, the report authors wrote. The nurse was airlifted to a cardiology center in Perth, where he received a stent and drugs for his heart condition. He was discharged 48 hours later.

Although the nurse's efforts to save himself were essential for this case, "a person's self-management of a [heart attack] cannot be considered medically appropriate if any other option is available," the report authors concluded.

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