Samantha Cobb was asleep when her dad felt chest pain.
Frank was shoveling snow early that morning. Suddenly, “it felt like my lungs were on fire, and I had sharp pains across my chest,” Frank recalls. “I figured I overdid it, so I thought I’d just sit down.”
Frank told his wife Janice that his chest hurt; she woke up Samantha for help.
Samantha’s been studying Emergency Medical Response through Explorer Post 3300, where young adults explore career options as first responders (paramedic, fire, police). Samantha checked her dad’s vital signs: “His pulse was irregular; he said pain was radiating to his left shoulder, down his arm and towards his back – all signs of a heart attack,” she says. “I told him he should go to the hospital.”
“Samantha said, ‘There’s not any more time for you to sit and think about it,’” Janice recalls. “She said, ‘You either get in the car and go now or I’m calling 911 now.’”
“I’m kind of stubborn,” Frank says. “But when she said it was a possible acute heart attack, that convinced me.”
The Emergency Department team at St. Francis Hospital confirmed the heart attack; an EKG showed S-T elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) as blood failed to circulate to parts of the heart, causing tissue to die. They rushed Frank to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis with lights and sirens blaring. Time was crucial; Samantha’s quick, decisive action gave Frank the best chance for his recovery.
“While the ambulance crew was loading me up, they said Samantha saved my life,” Frank says.
“Samantha was great throughout the whole hospital experience,” Janice recalls. “She knew enough about the medical activities that she could tell us what was going on. She did so much of the communication with the doctors that it made it easier for me to just process the information and relay it on to family.”
Frank was hospitalized for three days; he now has a LINQ cardiac monitor implanted in his chest, which uploads data to Abbott’s Minneapolis Heart Institute for ongoing care.
“This is exactly what Explorer Post training is all about: being able to handle a real-world situation,” says NH+C EMS Assistant Chief Chris Matek, also Lead Advisor for Explorer Post 3300. After graduating from Northfield High School this spring, Samantha will take her EMT certification course, probably through NH+C.
Her advice for those who don’t have the training to spot an emergency? “If you think something might be wrong, it probably is,” Samantha says. “If you’re guessing whether it’s an emergency, there’s no problem calling 911. If it doesn’t feel right, you should get help.”
Don’t sleep on it.