Pittsburgh EMS receives top award from American Heart Association | TribLIVE.com
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Pittsburgh EMS receives top award from American Heart Association

Tom Davidson
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Tom Davidson | Tribune-Review
Gina Hrach, left, the director of quality systems improvement for the American Heart Association, presents the Mission: Lifeline EMS Gold Plus Award to Pittsburgh EMS Director Ronald Romano on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, in the mayor’s conference room of the City-County Building Downtown.
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Tom Davidson | Tribune-Review
Dr. Ronald Roth, Pittsburgh EMS medical director, talks Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, in the mayor’s conference room of the City-County Building Downtown.

Pittsburgh’s Emergency Medical Services bureau is one of 77 in Pennsylvania and 615 across the country that received the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline EMS Gold Plus Award.

The city’s EMS leadership and other local officials accepted the award Monday from Gina Hrach, the director of quality systems improvement for the heart association.

The EMS bureau received the award because it meets a benchmark of completing an electrocradiogram (EKG) within 10 minutes of arriving to treat a patient and transmitting its results to the hospital before the patient arrives allowing medical professionals to meet a goal of getting a patient experiencing a heart attack into a catherization lab within 90 minutes, Hrach said.

In Pittsburgh, about 60 patients are treated each year for a heart attack, said Mark Pinchalk, assistant chief of the EMS bureau.

About 80% of the patients treated in 2018 met those goals, Pinchalk said, and the average time to get the person into a catherization lab was 80 minutes, he said.

One of the people who was helped in Tom Stokum.

Stokum, 62, of Claridge, collapsed just before the finish line of the 2018 Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race. He was carried across the finish line by Pittsburgh EMS workers and resuscitated quickly, Dr. Ronald Roth, the city’s EMS medical director, said.

On Sunday, toward the end of this year’s Great Race, Roth was approached by Stokum.

“Hey Dr. Roth, I’m the guy who died at last year’s race,” Roth said Stokum told him.

“Indeed he did,” Roth said. “Last year, he was about to cross the finish line and he dropped dead. Lucky for him, about a dozen city paramedics had just finished the race and were just standing around, and he literally had about a dozen paramedics, three physicians caring for him.”

He was awake before he was taken to the hospital, Roth said.

As they met again this year, Stokum wasn’t seen as a statistic, or as living proof that fast action when someone’s facing heart problems can save their life, Roth said.

Instead, he was seen as a “father, a husband, and he introduced us to his little grandbaby.”

Stories like Stokum’s are the reason the American Heart Association award is important, Roth said.

This is the second consecutive year the city has been honored.

“We saw what we get from being very vigilant,” Roth said.

The award lauds the city’s commitment to heart health and the role that first responders play in it, Hrach said.

The city’s EMS services are a priority here, Mayor Bill Peduto said.

“While you are here, you will be given the best care possible and you will be taken care of in a way that is at a much higher standard than anywhere else,” Peduto said.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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