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North Texas Ambulance Service Responds To Skyrocketing Number Of Cardiac Arrests


One Fort Worth-area ambulance service says it has responded to about 100% more cardiac arrests this month than it did in July of 2019.

MedStar serves Fort Worth and 14 surrounding cities, and it reports the number of cardiac arrest responses started skyrocketing in March, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic.

People often confuse heart attacks and cardiac arrests, but they’re not the same thing, said MedStar spokesperson Matt Zavadsky.

“A heart attack is when the heart loses blood flow, usually through a blockage in the coronary arteries, and the person has chest pain and other things that are related to what happens to the heart muscle when it doesn’t get enough oxygen,” Zavadsky said. “Cardiac arrest is when the heart has actually stopped.”

A heart attack can cause cardiac arrest, Zavadsky said, and MedStar data shows people are waiting longer to call 911 when they feel heart attack symptoms.

In March and April, people waited about an hour. But this month, that waiting time has tripled to about three hours.

Zavadsky said people are worried about going to the hospital right now, but people shouldn't hesistate to call for help.

"What we don’t want is people to delay medical care when they need it because [of] the fear of contracting the coronavirus, or the fear of occupying space in the emergency room, occupying space in the hospital,” he said.

Zavadsky added that MedStar's partner organizations around the country have been seeing similar spikes.

Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.