How an Innovative Trauma Team is Saving Lives in the Real World

New North Texas pre-hospital trauma team saves man’s life on its first field call.

The lifesaving onsite amputation of a construction worker’s leg in Frisco by a team of experienced ER and trauma physicians demonstrates the value of pre-hospital trauma care in North Texas. Medical City Plano received its Level I Trauma Center designation from the Texas Department of State Health Services in May 2017. Newer yet is the team that was assembled for just such a real-world incident in a joint effort between Medical City Plano, Medical City Frisco and local EMS and firefighters. Known as the Pre-Hospitalization Amputation Team, it was called on for the first time during the Frisco construction accident when it saved the life of a man who had become caught in a commercial trencher, his right leg completely trapped in its chain-saw-like teeth.

PHAT Channel 4

The team had been put together just six months earlier at the request of Collin County firefighters. They had identified a need for the service due to the increasing number of ongoing construction sites in the area and the potential for injuries the sites present.

Firefighters arrived on the scene within five minutes but were unable to free the man’s leg. They called Mark Gamber, DO, an emergency room physician at Medical City Plano, who put in a call to trauma surgeon Al West, MD. The two doctors were helicoptered to the site with their Pre-Hospitalization Amputation Kit.

Dr. West, who performed the operation, said that there was no choice but to amputate above the knee. After the 10-minute procedure, the patient was stabilized and transported in the helicopter to Medical City Plano. For the latest update on his condition, read the full story on DallasNews.

For Dr. West, this was his first experience with field surgery.

“In the civilian world, it’s pretty uncommon to go out and do something like this,” he said.

Trauma is a team sport.

Having the team in place shaved at least an hour off the time it would normally have taken to treat the patient. Dr. West said it was very likely he would have bled to death while he waited.

“The real takeaway is the preparation by the local fire departments and the MCP trauma service for just such an emergency,” he said. “Process improvement is what good trauma care is built on. Trauma is a ‘team sport’ and I am incredibly proud of the team of professionals we have put together here.”

Learn how to stop the bleed in any trauma situation.

Roughly 10,000 Texans are killed each year from injuries, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. The National Trauma Institute lists traumatic injuries as the leading cause of death in persons aged 1 to 46 years old.

Trauma injuries can take many forms, from construction accidents to ground level or high falls to mass shooting incidents. Knowing how to stop bleeding in someone who is critically injured is a valuable skill that could save the life of someone you love. Visit Stop the Bleed for more information.

For fast, emergency service in any crisis situation, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free, 24/7 Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

Sign Up for the LifeSigns E-Newsletter


Panic or Heart Attack? How to Know the Difference.

The human body is really good at signaling when something is wrong. Unfortunately, it’s not very good at diagnosing itself. In fact, many of the signals it sends are virtually the same for a wide variety of conditions. And we tend to minimize our symptoms. So, if your body is telegraphing chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea and lightheadedness, you may be inclined to chalk it up to stress or anxiety. Chances are, you’ll rule out anything more serious despite the fact that these can also be symptoms of a heart attack. So how can you tell if you’re having a panic or heart attack? Knowing the difference and acting fast could save your life.


Panic or heart attack? Maximizing your symptoms.

If you’ve never had a panic attack or heart attack and aren’t being treated for heart disease, it can be nearly impossible to differentiate between the two. Overlapping symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Anxiety or fear of impending doom
  • Racing, pounding or fluttering heart
  • Breathing difficulties; shortness of breath
  • Sweating or chills
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

With a heart attack, minutes equal muscle. In other words, the chances of saving precious heart muscle decrease with every minute that it takes to be diagnosed and treated. Don’t wait more than 5 minutes to call.

Recognizing and acknowledging your symptoms can help you minimize the damage caused by a heart attack.


Additional heart attack clues.

If you have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, you already know that you should take the symptoms listed above seriously and call for help. But if you don’t have a diagnosis or haven’t had a heart attack, there are additional symptoms that often accompany a heart attack but typically not a panic attack. They include:

  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Pain in the jaw, back, shoulders, neck or upper abdomen (often more common in women)
  • Heartburn

Additional panic attack clues.

These additional symptoms of an anxiety attack may help you tell whether you are having a panic or heart attack.

  • Sudden feelings of terror for no reason
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Abdominal cramping
  • An urge to flee
  • Feelings of unreality or being detached from your body

If you’ve suffered from anxiety before and this feels similar to a past panic attack that turned out to be stress-related, try some deep breathing exercises or meditation to see if your symptoms ease. If they don’t, get medical help right away.

When you’re not sure if it’s a panic or heart attack, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free, 24/7 Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

Sign Up for the LifeSigns E-Newsletter

Stroke or Migraine? How to Know the Difference.

You’re hit suddenly with a blinding headache. Maybe you’ve had migraines before and this feels like another one. Or maybe you’ve never had a migraine but imagine this is what one must feel like. You might be right, but what if you’re not? Just like stomach pain and chest pain, a bad headache can indicate a number of conditions that have similar or overlapping symptoms. Since both stroke and migraine are common neurovascular disorders with many neurological and physical similarities, your throbbing head could be a migraine mimicking a stroke or a stroke disguised as a migraine. So which it is: stroke or migraine? Knowing the difference could save your life.


Stroke or migraine? The migraine-stroke connection.

Migraine is the most common neurological disorder, affecting 10% to 15% of adults in the U.S. According to a study published in the Journal of Stroke, people who suffer from migraine headaches have increased risks for a variety of vascular diseases, including ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.

The National Headache Foundation reported that people who have migraine with aura (additional symptoms that typically appear before a migraine begins) are more than twice as likely to have an ischemic stroke as people who have migraine without aura. In addition to a severe headache, it is these aura symptoms that can mimic some of the signs of a stroke or transient ischemic stroke (TIA).

Stroke and migraine with aura overlapping symptoms.

  • Visual changes
    • Stroke:
      • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
    • Migraine with aura:
      • Flashing lights
      • Spots or zigzag lines
      • Temporary, partial loss of vision
    • Speech changes
      • Stroke:
        • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
      • Migraine with aura:
        • Speech difficulties and disturbances, confusion
      • Physical changes
        • Stroke:
          • Sudden numbness or weakness or face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
          • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
        • Migraine with aura:
          • Weakness in arm or leg
          • Numbness or tingling in the face or hands
          • Lightheadedness

Man-headache-FB.jpgAs you can see, it can be very difficult to tell whether someone’s having a stroke or migraine with aura because the symptoms can be nearly identical. As if to complicate matters even more, people who suffer from seizure disorders can also experience aura symptoms. This is why it’s so important to have any of these symptoms checked out by a medical professional, especially in the case of a stroke where time is brain.

Recognizing a stroke is key, according to Albert Yoo, MD, a neurologist at Medical City Plano. Dr. Yoo says that because treatment is time dependent, every minute that passes without medical care means more brain cells are dying.

Stroke or migraine? How to recognize the differences in symptoms.

While it’s always advisable to seek emergency medical treatment by calling 911 for any signs of stroke, even if you’re not sure, there are subtle differences in symptoms that may give you a clue as to whether it’s a stroke or migraine.


According to StrokeSmart, here are the questions to ask:

  • Abrupt or gradual? A stroke typically comes on suddenly, without warning. Symptoms are immediately at peak intensity. A migraine aura usually occurs gradually, with symptoms evolving over several minutes and any accompanying headache building to a peak over time.
  • Increased or decreased vision changes? With migraine you see it, with stroke you don’t. Someone having a migraine with aura will experience added visual stimuli, such as flashing lights or zigzagging lines. A stroke, on the other hand, typically diminishes vision — bumping into something may be the first clue that vision has been impaired.
  • Past history of migraine? Although it’s possible to have a first migraine at any age, it’s more typical to begin having them as a child. Most migraine sufferers will also recognize their aura, as it tends to be the same every time. If you have never had a migraine or your migraine symptoms differ from their normal course, get to the closest ER or urgent care center. With stroke, it’s also possible to have one at any age or in any physical shape, so don’t ever rule it out. Call 911 immediately, because it’s better to be safe than sorry.   

For expert emergency care in any situation, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free, 24/7 Ask a Nurse hotline.

Sign Up for the LifeSigns E-Newsletter

Your Fluttering Heart: Is it Love or an Arrhythmia?

Most people are not really aware of their heart beating and that’s a good thing. It generally means they do not have an arrhythmia — an irregular contraction of the heart muscle caused by a problem with the heart’s electrical system. People often describe these skips, flips and blips as heart palpitations or heart flutters. When they happen only once in a while, last only a second or two and can be traced to something you ate, drank or did (including, possibly, falling madly, deeply in love) a fluttering heart is probably harmless.


But if a fluttering heart is causing a change in your lifestyle, you should probably make an appointment with your primary care physician or heart specialist to have it checked out, according to Dale Yoo, MD, a cardio electrophysiologist at Medical City McKinney.

And if it’s causing immediate problems, Dr. Yoo recommends heading straight to an ER or urgent care center such as CareNow.

If your fluttering heart is accompanied by these symptoms, head to the ER.

  • Sudden weight gain
  • Swollen legs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Exhaustion

“These symptoms can be a sign of an arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation (AFib),” said Dr. Yoo, “but they can also be symptoms of other heart conditions, including congestive heart failure or a pulmonary embolism. Each of these can be deadly and requires immediate medical attention.”

Other signs of irregular heart rhythms.

“Heart palpitations are the most common symptom of arrhythmias,” said Dr. Yoo, “but there may be other signs as well.”

Additional symptoms that your fluttering heart may be something more than amore include:

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Passing out (fainting) or nearly fainting
  • Feeling tired, like you can’t walk as far as you used to
  • Feeling ill, like you’re getting a cold or the flu
  • Changes in your blood pressure
  • Changes in heart rate; speeding up (racing heart) or slowing down

Causes of arrhythmias and how stimulants can trigger heart palpitations.

There are many potential causes of arrhythmias, according to Dr. Yoo, including physiological changes that you have no control over (such as aging) and some that you may not even be aware of. But arrhythmias can also be caused by behaviors that you do have some control over.

Potential causes of irregular heart rhythms include:

  • Medications
    • Taking the wrong dosage
    • Forgetting to take them
    • Taking too little or too much
    • Taking some diet pills, cough medicines, decongestants and prescription medicines
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Illness
  • Chemicals/stimulants
    • Caffeine
    • Theophylline (found in tea)
    • Red Bull® and other energy drinks
    • Tobacco and alcohol

If you think your heart palpitations are caused by any of the potential triggers above, talk to your doctor so you can identify them and take steps to decrease them.

“Anything that increases adrenaline or an adrenaline state (increased awareness) is a stimulant and can cause heart palpitations,” said Dr. Yoo. “There are lots of triggers for arrhythmias and a wide variety of symptoms, including heart fluttering, but usually there’s a dramatic change in what you can do or what you call normal.”

If your heart skips a beat and it’s not because of your valentine, you’ll find expert emergency care at one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free, 24/7 Ask a Nurse hotline.

Sign Up for the LifeSigns E-Newsletter


Flu and Your Heart: Can Flu Make Your Heart Sick?

When it comes to flu and your heart, the bad news is, flu can make your heart sick. Just not in that angsty, teenage, love-struck way. It’s more life-threatening than that (although your teen may not agree) and involves mounting research showing a link between influenza and both heart attack and stroke.

A January 2018 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed the heart/flu link. The study found that heart attacks are six times more likely in the seven days following a flu diagnosis. They also noted that heart attack risk increased slightly for those over 65 and that sixty-nine percent of study participants had not received a flu shot.

The good news is, researchers from UT-Houston found that the flu shot probably reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke or sudden death by as much as 25 percent. They estimate that 90,000 coronary deaths a year could be prevented in the U.S. if more heart patients received flu shots. Four additional studies suggest that the flu vaccination does in fact protect against atherosclerosis — a condition which hardens and clogs arteries from a buildup of fatty deposits, or plaque. These plaque deposits can become dislodged during episodes of inflammation, such as having the flu, and can cause blood clots and heart attacks.


We asked Keith Vasenius, DO, an interventional cardiologist at Medical City Fort Worth, to discuss flu and your heart, including whether cardiac patients are more susceptible to the flu, if regular heart medications should be continued during the flu, and some of the health and lifestyle factors that can increase someone’s risk for heart disease.

Dr. Vasenius noted that flu can be hard on anybody — it’s a tough disease and it can set you up for secondary infections and other diseases, such as pneumonia. Most people in good health will suffer five to seven days with the flu and get better — they generally don’t need to go to the ER. But, it’s the very young, the very old and people with other medical problems, such as heart disease, who might need to consider going to the ER if they are having complications with the flu.

Unfortunately, there is no minimum age requirement for heart disease or stroke — they can affect anyone at any age, including a high school soccer star and a 21-year-old college student.

Flu and your heart: Are cardiac patients more at risk?

Cardiac patients are at no higher risk of getting the flu than everyone else but, because they have heart problems, they are more likely to get sicker with the flu. Flu is a respiratory illness and because of that, patients can develop problems with appropriate oxygen levels, which can affect every organ in the body, including the heart. It can especially take a toll on the heart if you already have heart problems.

“As a chest pain center, Medical City Fort Worth is seeing a number of cardiac patients being treated with flu complications,” said Dr. Vasenius. “For example, a patient might have low ejection fraction (EF), meaning their heart doesn’t pump very well. Untreated flu complications can lead to tachycardia, where the heart beats faster than normal while at rest. This makes the heart work harder and, in turn, can put it at risk for demand ischemia, a type of heart attack that can happen when a patient’s heart needs more oxygen than is available in the body’s supply. It may occur in patients with infection, anemia or abnormally fast heart rates.”

Flu and your heart: Should heart patients with flu continue regular medications?

With the flu and other illnesses, it’s important for heart patients to continue taking the medications their doctor has prescribed to treat their heart condition. That includes blood pressure and cholesterol medications.

“Sometimes when people are feeling ill — maybe they’re having nausea and vomiting — they don’t take their heart medications as prescribed,” Dr. Vasenius said. “This can lead to bad outcomes so, if this is happening to you, be sure and tell your doctor. If you let us know early enough, we can make adjustments for that.”


Pay attention to the warning signs of a potential heart attack.

Flu complications can develop very quickly, so it’s important to pay attention to signs and symptoms. Dr. Vasenius said he always watches for these classic warning signs of a potential heart problem, with or without the flu:

  • Shortness of breath and chest pain — discomfort, extreme squeezing or pressure
  • Dizziness or feeling like you might faint

If you have these symptoms in activities or situations where you’ve never had problems before, you should be seen by a medical professional immediately. That’s especially important if you have any risk factors for heart disease, including:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Smoking

If you have two or more of these risk factors, you should see a doctor to be screened for heart disease — with or without the flu.

Finally, protect yourself by getting your flu shot every year. The flu can be a life-threatening infection, especially in people at risk.

Flu shots are available at CareNow Urgent Care locations across DFW.

If you have the flu and any of the symptoms or risk factors listed above, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas can help you avoid getting heart sick. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free, 24/7 Ask a Nurse hotline.

Sign Up for the LifeSigns E-Newsletter

9 Most Popular Health and Safety Blogs of the Year

We know it’s a full-time job taking care of your family’s health and safety, so we’re committed to doing all we can to help. That’s why we’ve presented this roundup of our top 9 health and safety blogs of 2017. Whether you’re concerned about snakebites, the opioid crisis, burns, texting on the toilet or other hot topics, we’ve got the expert advice you’re looking for — including ways to keep your family out of the ER.

Health and Safety Blog No. 1: Do You Know What to Do in a Snakebite Emergency?

Snakes have been in the news for the last few years, flushed out of their natural habitats by several consecutive wet seasons in North Texas. 2018 could very well follow that trend, so brush up on your snakebite emergency skills. You might also want to add these blogs to your list of serpent-themed surfing:

Snakes in the Grass: Know How to Avoid and Treat Snakebites

Pokémon Go: Know How to Avoid Injuries and Ekans Bites

Multigen-family-running-FB.jpgHealth and Safety Blog No. 2: First Aid for Burns: 5 Things You Should Never Do

We all learned “stop, drop and roll” in school but not how to treat burn injuries. Some of the most common burn treatment myths, such as using butter, are just that — incorrect information that can cause more harm than good. This blog will teach you how to recognize the severity of a burn and how to avoid the most common mistakes people make when treating burns. If you’re looking for an advanced degree in burns, add these to your reading list:

Learn About Burns: Get Schooled in Burn Awareness

How to be Fire-Safe and What to Do if You Get Burned

Don’t Get Burned: Know the Top Rules of Fire Safety

Jason West, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Denton, discusses when to go the ER for a burn and how to tell what percentage of a person’s body is burned.

Health and Safety Blog No. 3: Bathroom Blues: Are You Taking Your Tech to the Toilet?

The No. 3 spot goes to constipation and hemorrhoids. As well it should, since our expert says it takes just 20 minutes a day lounging in the loo to bum out your bum.

Health and Safety Blog No. 4: 10 Signs You Need to Go to the ER

From chest and abdominal pain to persistent vomiting, diarrhea and depression, this blog is packed with tips for how to recognize when your symptoms need emergency medical attention.

Manisha Gupta, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Denton, explains when your stomach pain warrants a trip to the ER.

Health and Safety Blog No 5: Five Opportunities and Insights from “13 Reasons Why”  

“13 Reasons Why” became the most-watched Netflix show when season one debuted last March. Based on a novel, the story centers on teen suicide and got parents, teachers and kids talking about this previously taboo subject. In this blog, our Medical City Green Oaks Hospital expert offers insight into how to use the show as an opportunity to talk to your own kids about depression, bullying, sexual assault and more.

In the follow-up blog, How “13 Reasons Why” Can Be a Lessons for All Ages, our expert discusses the growing rates of suicide in middle-aged adults and seniors.

Health and Safety Blog No 6: What You Need to Know About RSV

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is the virus responsible for a whole host of respiratory conditions, including colds, bronchitis, pneumonia and croup. Most children will have had an RSV infection by the age of two. In kids younger than 3, RSV can cause a dangerous illness called bronchiolitis — the most common cause of hospitalization in infants 12 months old and younger.

Health and Safety Blog No 7: The Growing Opioid Crisis: What You Need to Know

Labeled an epidemic by the CDC, the opioid crisis continues to take the lives of Americans of every age, race and socioeconomic level. In fact, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among those under 50. Read what our expert has to say about this growing concern, learn how to spot opioid abuse, discover common drugs you may not have known were opioids and find out what type of drugs you should never mix with opioids.

Health and Safety Blog No 8: How Much Water Do You Need to Drink Every Day?

The human body is made up of mostly water and yet almost 70% of us don’t drink enough to keep our bodies functioning properly. Symptoms of dehydration begin when we’ve lost just 1% of our water. At 2-3%, things start to crash. Could your fatigue, irritability, headache, dry skin or fuzzy brain be “cured” just by drinking more water? Read this and find out.


Health and Safety Blog No 9: Heartburn or Heart Attack? How to Save Your Own Life.

The symptoms of heartburn and heart attack can be surprisingly similar. In fact, heartburn is often a sign of heart attack, especially in women. Our experts discuss how to tell the difference between the two and when to call 911 or head to the nearest ER.

Steven Kaster, MD, a gastroenterologist at Medical City McKinney, shares the signs and symptoms of heart attack and heartburn and how to tell the difference.

Matt Bush, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Dallas, shares how to save a life with hands-only CPR.

For expert emergency care whenever you’re concerned about your family’s health and safety, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free, 24/7 Ask a Nurse hotline.

Sign Up for the LifeSigns E-Newsletter