Paramedic suffering heart attack drives himself to hospital

image copyrightAmbulance Victoria
image captionNicole Watson was surprised to hear of her husband's heart attack, given his fitness levels

An on-call paramedic used his own equipment to diagnose himself as suffering a heart attack, and then drove himself to the nearest hospital in Victoria, Australia.

David Watson, 52, was working alone on a Sunday evening shift when he felt the "crushing chest pain and tingles down both arms", he told 9NEWS.

Mr Watson dashed to his ambulance to hook himself up to an electrocardiography (ECG) machine and diagnosed he was suffering a major heart attack.

"I thought, 'Oh... that's not right,'" he told the 3AW Breakfast programme.

"Trying to save my heart muscle, I took myself in the ambulance to the hospital, and rang their doorbell and told them I had chest pain," he told a news conference at Ambulance Victoria.

Mr Watson, who has been a paramedic for 25 years and is a father of two, got behind the wheel of his ambulance and drove himself 100 metres to the nearest emergency department at Casterton Hospital.

He was eventually airlifted to Geelong Hospital and within minutes of landing was operated on, having a clot removed from one of his coronary arteries.

"I was awake the whole time. They removed a clot and put a stent in," he told 3AW. "I'm lucky to be alive because I was so quick to get on to it, because I was able to self-diagnose."

Mr Watson has been advised by doctors to take two months off work to recover.

Early signs

Mobile Intensive Care paramedic Michael Wells told a press conference at Ambulance Victoria: "Dave's very lucky... he recognised the signs early." He commended Mr Watson's "calm thinking" and said the self-diagnosis saved his life.

Mr Watson's wife, Nicole, was driving home from a football match when she received a call from the hospital.

"Heart attack never crossed my mind in the first phonecall because I know how fit he is. It was the last thing on my mind," she said.

Heart attack symptoms

  • Chest pain - a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of the chest
  • Pain in other parts of the body - it can feel as if the pain is travelling from the chest to the arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and abdomen
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
  • Overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack)
  • Coughing or wheezing

Although the chest pain is often severe, some people may only experience minor pain, similar to indigestion. In some cases, there may not be any chest pain at all, especially in women, elderly people and people with diabetes.

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