Riverbend Awareness Project

Dr. Blake Wachter and Chief Lyle Barney share with us why they’re dedicated to keeping the hearts of everyone in our community beating to a healthy rhythm, and how it’s possible for most anyone to help save a heart.

This episode is made possible by Idaho Falls Community Hospital.

Idaho Heart Foundation
Idaho Heart Foundation Heart Ball 
American Heart Association
CDC Heart Healthy Lifestyle Strategies 
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Risk Factors

Show Notes

Dr. Blake Wachter and Chief Lyle Barney share with us why they’re dedicated to keeping the hearts of everyone in our community beating to a healthy rhythm, and how it’s possible for most anyone to help save a heart. This episode is made possible by Idaho Falls Community Hospital. Resources Idaho Heart Foundation Idaho Heart […]

What is Riverbend Awareness Project?

The Riverbend Awareness Project brings you a new conversation each month about important causes and issues in our community. Every month of 2024 we will sit down and have a conversation with a professional from our community about significant issues like heart health, Alzheimer’s, literacy, and more. We’ll then share that conversation with you on the Riverbend Awareness Project Podcast, with the goal of sharing resources, and information that will help you have a better understanding of the particular problems, and solutions, associated with each topic.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast episode are solely those of the individuals participating and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Riverbend Media Group or the Riverbend Awareness Project, its affiliates, or its employees. It is important to note that the discussion presented is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Listeners are encouraged to consult with qualified health care professionals for any medical concerns or decisions. The Riverbend Awareness Project is a product of Riverbend Media Group.

Melissa: Hey. This is Melissa.

Russell: And I'm Russell.

Melissa: Thanks for joining us on the Riverbend Awareness Project. Each month, we dive into a topic our community is affected by and explore how you can help.

This episode is made possible by Idaho Falls Community Hospital.

Russell: February is American Heart Month. We're gonna be talking about heart health.

Melissa: We're in studio today with Dr. Blake Wachter and Chief Lyle Barney, and they're going to introduce themselves.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Hi, thank you so much, Melissa, for having us here. This is amazing. As you said, my name is Dr. Blake Wachter. I'm an advanced heart failure cardiologist in Idaho Falls here, working at Idaho Heart Institute. I also have a doctorate, obviously, in medicine, MD, and I also have a PhD in medical informatics, which is related to software.

Chief Barney: Thank you for inviting me. My name is Lyle Barney, and I've been a voluntary EMT since 1992 with the Shelly-Firth Quick Response Unit. When I very first started running, we had 217 calls per year. Now we're over 900 calls per year, and we are in the midst of getting our own ambulance service.

Russel: Yeah, this month, our topic is heart health. Let's just jump right into it. What is heart health? Right? We have a whole month dedicated to teaching the public about it. So why is that the case?

Dr. Blake Wachter: Well, as a cardiologist, I think the heart is the most important organ there is in the body, so... (laughs) No, but the heart is very important. People are afraid of, you know, heart attacks, chest pain, and it's real.

I mean, that part is real. You need to keep your heart healthy. It's also a very preventable disease in a lot of cases that people can, you know, do something about and, you know, stay exercised, stay fit. And so heart health to me is preventative as well as, you know, treating the acute problems. And sometimes people are actually born with congenital heart problems that we have to manage and we have to work with.

So heart health means all of that to me in addition to taking care of our community, and our loved ones and our family members, a lot of people with other different types of diseases, like diabetes and high blood pressure and stuff, they always, you know, come in to heart health as well because they're all risk factors for heart disease.

Russell: What is heart disease?

Dr. Blake Wachter: Well, heart disease is everything related to the heart, when you say it that way. So it could be coronary disease, heart attacks. Coronary diseases are blockages of the vessels that feed blood to the heart.

It could be heart failure, which could be symptoms of shortness of breath and you need, you know, medications to help with that. It could be, like, what I call low squeeze of the heart. People with heart failure tend to know those terms because I work with them very closely in, you know, my clinic. It could be different problems with your valves. There's 4 valves in the heart.

And sometimes as we age, we can get one of the valves that's, you know, closed off, and it gets calcified as part of aging. Not everybody gets that, mind you, but some people can, and that's called aortic stenosis. And in that case, you you may need your valve replaced, and we need to do that. There's other valves that may leak— mitral regurgitation— and we might have to do something about that.

It could be thickening in the heart. It could be a rhythm problem. It could be defects that you're born with, and you need surgeries as a child to fix those, and then we need to deal with that as an adult and for the complications that follow. I can keep going on. Heart disease is a lot.

Melissa: How often do you guys have calls or respond to emergencies that are related to heart disease?

Chief Barney: I would say out of the 8 or 900 calls that we have per year now, that around 10% are cardiac events, whether that just be a heart attack or a full arrest.

Dr. Blake Wachter: What's can you describe the difference?

Chief Barney: Yeah. So heart attack is anytime that there's something that is traumatizing to the heart. It's not able to pump the blood. It's not— there's something that it doesn't like. So he's beginning to have the chest pains. A lot of people ignore them, and they think it's an angina, which sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. But the other thing is as Dr. Wachter said, shortness of breath.

You could have pain in your back. You could have pain in your shoulder, pain in your jaw, stomach. So right now, we're looking at anything from the abdomen all the way up is heart attack related until otherwise ruled out.

Russell: So, I know a lot of people that are probably going to be experiencing heart attacks, people in that demographic, are probably tough people. Right?

They've had a lot of pain in their lives, in their bodies. What is the point of pain where you want to get help with that? Like, you don't wanna just have a heart attack, let it happen, and not do anything about it. Right? But you don't wanna have any false alarms.

So when should you bring it to a doctor? When should you get emergency personnel on the line?

Dr. Blake Wachter: Whenever you feel that it's something related to your heart, I would much rather tell you that you're fine than say, "oh, I'm sorry. You shoulda come in." I would much rather tell you that you're okay.

So if somebody is having some kind of symptoms of shortness of breath or chest pain, and it's just not right— don't blow it off. Please, don't blow it off. We have a lot of tough people, like you said, in this community. There's so many tough people I have as patients, and, oh, yes, they can tough it out. They can work it out.

They can go back to work and do things, male and females. And sometimes it doesn't turn out so well. So that's always my answer to my patients and anyone.

Melissa: What are things we can do to take care of our heart?

Dr. Blake Wachter: We can do so many things to take care of our heart, and we all know what they are. I mean, really. It's eating healthy. It's exercising. It's not smoking. It's drinking alcohol within moderation.

It's taking your medicines when you need to take them, seeing your primary care doctor to make sure that you're otherwise healthy and in condition, and not doing drugs. I mean, it's really— we know what it is, but it's sometimes doing it. And that's one thing as a doctor, and I don't wanna speak for Chief Lyle Barney here, but it's, you know, we understand. Life is life also.

And my patient population is not, you know, the most pristine people. And I gotta say, sitting here, I'm not the most pristine person either. You know, we're all human, and I get it. But if you're gonna ask me what can you do, that's what I'm gonna say.

Russell: What other health conditions can affect the heart?

Dr. Blake Wachter: Well, there's actually quite a few that you may not realize, like diabetes. That's a big one. People with diabetes, from a cardiology standpoint, you know, they're coronary disease, you know, heart attacks waiting to happen. So controlling your diabetes is so important, and that's type 1 and type 2 diabetes. And, you know, people who have diabetics, they know what that means. And so it's controlling those sugars, controlling that diet that your doctor tells you about.

Hypertension, high high blood pressure, that's a silent killer because, you know, you may not always feel it. And having that go along too long, that can hurt your kidneys. That can hurt your heart. That can hurt so many other things that if you can stay on top of it, then that would be ideal.

Cholesterol is another one. There's prevention of, you know, where should my cholesterol be? But then once you've had coronary disease or if you have a high risk other disease such as diabetes, I want you on cholesterol medications because it is preventative. Other autoimmune diseases or immunological diseases, they can all play into it. So what I'm getting to is that everything can play into every organ that you have, including the heart.

Melissa: Seeing that interconnectivity of, like, everything is connected in the body and the heart is kind of at the center of it all, what impresses— this is for both of you guys— what impresses you guys most about the human heart?

Chief Barney: Just the fact that, as Dr. Wachter said, it is the main organ in your heart. Without your heart pumping, you're no better. I mean, you're done.

So, when we do CPR on people, they're like, "well, aren't you afraid of breaking ribs or cartilage or anything like that?" It's like, no. Actually, the person was dead, and so we're gonna give them a chance of surviving by mimicking a heartbeat through CPR and hoping that the heart picks that up and continues to pump on its own.

Russell: Yeah, what's a few broken ribs when you continue to live life. Right?

Chief Barney: Correct.

Melissa: I was about to say, are there any other organs that do that? Where you can, like, mimic something to get it going again? Or is it just the heart?

Dr. Blake Wachter: There's different things that... like, if you've got full blown kidney failure, I mean, there's dialysis.

Melissa: Okay.

Dr. Blake Wachter: You know? So you can mimic the kidneys by being on a dialysis machine.

But to get a heart machine? Now, I do do advanced heart failure like I explained earlier, and we'll talk about that a little bit later. But, you know, to get a "heart machine" to make your heart work for you, well, that's pretty advanced and that's pretty specific. And to get a heart transplant, which we do do, you know, we don't have hearts sitting on a shelf. So there are other things you can do for other organs and other diseases, but a brain's the next one. It's like having a stroke.

You know, the brain is important. That's where you... The brain controls all the signals for everything else. I still think the heart's more important.

Melissa: (Laughs) Sorry, I got off base there, but I didn't know if I gave you a chance to answer the question about what impresses you the most about the human heart.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Well, I'm a cardiologist, so it all impresses me. Actually, back in my training when I was going through med school, I was gonna be a pulmonologist, a lung doctor, and loved, you know, all of that learning and all that stuff with the lungs. But then I got into cardiology, and, oh my, it was so much fun. What really got me excited about the heart is the hemodynamics.

And that's all the pressures and the math that's involved in the heart, and how I take care of that in advanced heart failure. And so advanced heart failure is where, basically, your heart is not pumping. And, therefore, all your pressures of your blood don't go in the right directions. It's not technically going backwards, but it's just not going forward as well as we would like it to go. And all kinds of things can happen, and all of these advanced math and numbers, it excites me so much.

But that also is why I was, you know, math major and a software engineer too. So it all kinda plays together.

Russell: How did you get into the medical field from being a software engineer?

Dr. Blake Wachter: That's kind of an interesting question. I started off as a math major at Penn State, and I was a math major because that's what I was good at. And so I kept taking math classes, and my dad was like, "okay, time to graduate!" And I was like, "but what am I gonna be?" And he said," what do you got enough credits in?"

I said, "math." And he was like, "poof. You're a math major." So I was like, "great, what am I gonna do with that?"

So, then I started working for Lockheed Martin, back in Philadelphia area and got into software engineering, basically taught myself programming, coding. I love, I love coding. Oh my gosh. Old school coding too.

Not like the stuff you do now with all the, you know, apps and things, but, yeah, old school stuff. And so, I did that and then got into Lockheed Martin, which is an aerospace company for the government, it's a contractor for the government. And I was working in that department and then decided that, you know, I wanna take care of people. I really... I— I— this isn't for me.

I love it. I mean, I love the techie stuff, but the whole point of it wasn't what I wanted to do. I wanted to actually take care of people. So I decided that instead of working for the government, I would work for health care. And I thought, well, I'll take my software engineering and start working in the health care department, and I ended up getting my PhD in medical informatics, which is programming medical record systems. And so that's what I did.

And I kinda decided I really want to take care of people, not just make the software that takes care of people. I actually wanna be the one in charge and actually take care of people. So that's when I decided that that inner calling that I've had all my life, really, honestly, all my life, that I had to listen to that at age 30 and went to medical school at the same simultaneously of getting my PhD, which was kinda hard, but I couldn't deny that calling I had. And I have a wonderful support system with my husband who said, "okay, go for it, I guess."

And so that's that's kinda how I got there.

Melissa: Thanks for sharing that. How did you become an emergency responder?

Chief Barney: I had an uncle that was an EMT for many years, and he had some issues with his heart, and he ended up in the hospital. And he'd been in there for about 3 months, and he's pretty much on his deathbed. And I went in, and I asked him, "is there anything I can do for you?"

And he said, "yeah. Make me a promise."

I said, "what's that?"

He said, "promise me you'll become an EMT."

And I'm like, okay. Yeah, 'cause I got sick every time I saw the ambulance, so this wasn't a good thing. And I told him, I said, "how about if I let you know tomorrow?"

And he said there won't be a tomorrow. So couple hours later, he passed away, and at that time, you know, we still had the regular newspaper, and I opened it up. And here was an EMT class, and I just shut it thinking, "it'll go away." And I did this for about 6 weeks. Finally, I decided to make the phone call, and I made the call, and I had a very good instructor. And for some reason, I'm still in it after 32 years.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Not only that, but you're chief.

Chief Barney: Yeah. Well, I enjoy helping people, I really do. The thing is, is everything that we do is an outlying build training for our EMTs.

We're out in these rural communities, helping people get care quicker. Because if you're waiting for an ambulance to come from Idaho Falls or Blackfoot, due to their call volume, and sometimes they get hung up with weather or traffic, so it may be a little bit delayed. We can be on scene, and we can start the process. We have all the equipment on our quick response units that an ambulance has, we just cannot transport. And we're normally on scene in 4 to 7 minutes.

Dr. Blake Wachter: But some of that equipment, we've had to help you with.

Chief Barney: Yes. Yeah.

The Idaho Heart Foundation donated to the Shelley earthquake response unit a LUCAS device, and that is a CPR robot. And, we ran pretty shorthanded, so a lot of times, we only have 1 person on shift, maybe 2. You can put that on, and then you can just manage airway after that. It'll just continue to do the compressions. So that's very, very helpful, and we're very grateful for the...

Dr. Blake Wachter: They're very expensive.

Chief Barney: Yeah. For the Heart Foundation. Yeah. They're about $20,000.

Melissa: That's impressive. I've never even heard of one before. That's so cool that that is a thing. Like, that you can have the robot doing, like, I'm assuming, like, the heavy compression.

Dr. Blake Wachter: If you google it, it's more... don't think of a robot. It's more of a board strap.

Chief Barney: Yeah.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Like, you're on a board and you got this machine that goes over your chest, and it's got, like, a... Like, a compression, and it goes "ch-chunk ch-chunk ch-chunk." It's pretty efficient.

Chief Barney: Yeah, so the Idaho Heart Foundation has donated many AEDs over the last couple of years that I've been involved with them.

Dr. Blake Wachter: We've donated about 40 of them.

Chief Barney: Yeah, and some of those places are ISP, Bingham County Sheriff's Office, Blackfoot PD, and Champ's Heart. And each year, we continue to grow and bring in more money from the businesses that support this organization, and our goal is to be able to give 100 of them away per year.

Russell: What is an ID, and how are they helpful?

Dr. Blake Wachter: AED.

Russell: AED. Oh my goodness. (Laughs)

Melissa: That's okay. Hey, we're learning! This is the whole point of this. We're learning.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Talking about ID, ID is something like this infectious disease. You wanna talk about that? Do it in another month.

(All laugh)

Dr. Blake Wachter: Okay, so an AED is an Automatic External Defibrillator. And what that is, is it is a device that anyone can use.

Let me emphasize, anyone can use one.

And they have... it's a little box. It has a handle, and you open it up, and it's, like, foolproof. They've got sticker pads, and they have pictures, and they say put a sticker, you know, up there over your heart, which is the left side, upper part of your chest, and the other one kind of towards your back behind the heart. And then you plug in those pads where it's obvious there's a plug in, and you hit on, and it'll walk you through everything.

And what it does is... it's as you're doing CPR. So CPR, if you don't have a LUCAS device in your back pocket, which you probably wouldn't, CPR is the manual hand thing. So you put your hands together and you put them over the middle of the sternum and you push, and you push with locked arms and your body fully over the patient, and you push down pretty much 100 beats a minute. So it's the (thumps table)... that beat. And, you know, sing to yourself if you'd like.

There's a variety of songs. "Baby Shark" is one of them. "Staying Alive" is another. There's a couple of different songs out there, but you wanna keep doing that. And then somebody arrives with an AED, puts the stickers on, and then you turn it on.

You keep doing CPR till that machine tells you to stop, and it's going to analyze the rhythm. As it's analyzing the rhythm, it's determining if the rhythm of the heart... so you know, you hear about the heartbeat going "beep beep beep beep." So when you're in a heart attack, that rhythm is no longer "beep beep beep beep." It's all over the place, and that could be a deadly rhythm, and that is a shockable rhythm. So what that AED would automatically do is determine if there's a shockable rhythm and then tell you to clear, and it will automatically shock that patient.

And that's a life saving thing. I mean, big time. So, and then in between that, you do CPR. And so here's something that people may not know about AEDs: it's not gonna shock you if you don't need to be shocked. Like, you can't turn it on and, you know, shock somebody just for the heck of it. Like, that ain't gonna happen. It's only gonna shock shockable rhythms.

And you keep doing that, and you keep going until somebody like, you know, Chief Barney here shows up with his crew and helps you. But you guys—anybody—can do it.

Really, literally, anybody can do it. It's part of the Foundation—we actually have youth as part of our Foundation, and there's a big thing that we work with the youth, teaching youth about the importance of CPR and AEDs because that's our motto is anyone, you know, can save a life.

Chief Barney: Yeah. We have contests at each one of the events that we do and see who can do CPR the longest on these mannequins without missing the timing.

And we had a kid... 45 minutes, wasn't it? 45 minutes straight.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Yeah.

Chief Barney: We'd have both been dead if we'd have done it that long. But—

Dr. Blake Wachter: No kidding!

Chief Barney: He was 18 years old, and Dr. Wachter asked him later, how did you do that? And he goes, I just had music in my ear, and I just keep the beat to it.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Yeah. Yeah. And he wanted and he wanted that Xbox too.

Chief Barney: Yeah.

Melissa: He was motivated.

Dr. Blake Wachter: But, oh, and then as a result of these, you know, the youth you know, we do these big youth events and, you know, it's free to all youth. So we'll get back to you and we'll help, you know, get that word out for the youth. But, you know, some of them realize that, hey.

I wanna go into health care. You know? I might wanna be an EMT. Maybe I wanna be a doctor, you know, or just maybe health awareness. Like, hey.

You know, I might need this on somebody. And so it's really cool to see the youth, you know, become leaders in their community and spread this. And we actually had one school, Alturas, the middle school. They got together, and they raised money to buy their school an AED. And as a result of that, the foundation, and at the time, the Idaho Falls Fire Department went in, and we trained the entire school.

Everybody, even the kindergarteners. We did it on teddy bears.

Melissa: We should ask about the Idaho Heart Foundation. How did that get started, and how did you guys become involved?

Dr. Blake Wachter: I started the Idaho Heart Foundation back in 2017.

It was because as a cardiologist, I see people come in from having a heart attack, and sometimes it doesn't turn out so good. People die from heart attacks, and it's so important to have CPR. And if you have an AED available to use, an AED, even if you're just you know, if you're not trained, if you're not an EMT, if you're not medical, it doesn't matter—it's so important to do that because it is life or death, and it does improve survival significantly. So if you have a heart attack outside, you know, like you're not in a hospital or something, you know, you have a high chance of dying.

You know, if you get CPR, your chances improve. If you get an AED, your chances improve even more, significantly more. So it's so important to teach the community and the public that it's okay to push on somebody's chest. It's okay to use an AED, and it can mean something to a person or a loved one that may not have survived if it wasn't for you. And so with that, I started the Foundation to just get that word out that CPR is okay.

It's okay to do. Using an AED is not that scary. And so that's how it began, and it began by trying to get that awareness out, and then we realized that that's great, but there's not enough AEDs out in the community. And so without AEDs out in the community, well, then we're cutting people's chances of living, you know, significantly down. So we had to find a way to raise money to buy AEDs and equipment for the community.

And so that's how we started in 2017 with one AED, and we've grown from there. Work always closely with the first responders, of course, because that's who we're supplying with this. And as, Lyle said, you know, the Idaho State Police, we got a bunch of AEDs for them. We got more to give, next coming year in 2024. But, you know, we were gonna plan our first big, big fundraising ball in 2020.

Dun. Dun. Dun.


Melissa: We know what that means.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Yeah.

We were actually— it's a February event, of course, you know, and, it was... we were ready to go. When we heard about COVID, we're like, nah. It's not gonna hit us. We'll be fine. And then everything just came to a screeching halt.

We're like, oh my gosh. So everything, as we know, came to a screeching halt. So we postponed our very first big fundraiser to 2022. And so 2022, we had our very first inaugural Heart Ball. Down at Shoshone-Bannock; 400 people came.

Yes. Oh my gosh. It was it was so amazing. It was formal. We've raised a lot of money, and we did a great event.

It was just over the top. It was so amazing. Basically brought Vegas to Idaho Falls. It was cool. It was really cool.

And just the the pulling out the stops, you know, support from the community was just so overwhelming. And we just we did it again in 2023, and same— even better. Same response, even better. And we're able to get more and more money to buy AEDs. So last year, for instance, in 2023, we were able to buy 18 AEDs.

And AEDs cost anywhere from sometimes up to 3,000, and we get the AEDs that the community needs. So, you know, we don't have a specific type. We're definitely not a distributor of AEDs or anything like that, but we work with the EMS and and Chief Barney here to determine, you know, what the need is for the community. And that's how that's how it got started, and that's what we're doing.

Russell: Do you guys have any personal experiences that you've seen AEDs work in real time?

Chief Barney: I have.

Russell: Do you have any that stand out? Any experiences that stand out that you wanna share?

Chief Barney: Well, can't really share any information on that, but I can share the fact that the sooner you get an AED on a person, the better chances of them living. If they have a shockable rhythm, it'll bring them back fairly quickly.

Dr. Blake Wachter: We use them all the time in the hospital with codes. Yeah. We both have very personal experiences with them. They work.

Chief Barney: So the AED takes care of the electrical part of the heart. And when we do compressions, we're just trying to mimic that beat. K? So—

Dr. Blake Wachter: to get the blood flowing.

Chief Barney: Yeah, to get the blood flowing. So we want oxygenated blood going to the organs, the brain.

Dr. Blake Wachter: And then they get to the— they bring them to the hospital, and then we take them up to the cath lab. That's where we do our procedures, that's where acute heart attacks goes to the cath lab. And then an interventional cardiologist will get in there and open up those blocked coronaries, like, really quick, under 60 minutes. And even more than that, like, seriously, like, really quick, it can get going.

And so, you know, we have that services 24/7. And Idaho Falls is... we're pretty lucky here because we've got a lot of resources. As I said earlier, I work with Idaho Heart Institute, and we've got, you know, like, 15 cardiology providers. And we service, you know, the entire community here in Tri-state Area, and we're just growing. This community is growing, you know, huge, and we provide all kinds of different services.

But, you know, we have somebody on call every minute of every day ready to take care of somebody who has a heart attack. We're just there.

Russell: That's awesome. That's inspiring.

Melissa: You guys do important work.

Chief Barney: Thank you.

Melissa: And you are impacting so many lives.

Dr. Blake Wachter: We try. But we do it, like, you know, for the right reasons. I really— I really care about my patients. I care about the community. I care about the youth. I care about the future, and you know? And I care about my older patients too because we're all gonna pass some time in this life, and that's part of life also.

And so that's why I do heart failure because heart failure is like, you know, you get to care for the patient the entire time. My youngest patient is 18. My oldest is, I think over 100. Yeah.

Melisa: It's quite the age range.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Yeah.

Melissa: Sorry. Just stating the obvious. What differences have you guys seen in people when they decide to take better care of themselves and their hearts?

Chief Barney: Well, one of the biggest things as you get older is you put on weight. You don't get the exercise that you need. And after you retire, you even get lazier. So that really has a lot to do with it. As Dr. Walker said, if you're not getting your exercise, that's huge. And you change the way you eat.

So that that is probably the most important. But the thing that everybody can have in their cupboard at home is the chewable baby aspirins or 81 milligrams. And if you start to feel any kind of chest pain or anything unusual within from the abdomen all the way back into the middle of your back, take 4 baby aspirin.

Dr. Blake Wachter: I agree.

Chief Barney: 324 milligrams.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Well, if you're having a heart attack, you're not gonna count and do the math.

Chief Barney: No.

Dr. Blake Wachter: So 3 to 4, 3 to 4.

Chief Barney: Yeah, just throw them down.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Chew them up, chew them up.

Chief Barney: Yep, throw them down. And then Dr. Walker can explain what the aspirin does.

Dr. Blake Wachter: So the aspirin makes, for lack of technical terms, like, makes the blood slippery. So if you've got a plaque that's sitting there in the coronaries and you just took an aspirin, oh, that's gonna make that real slippery and open that up, and give you that valuable couple minutes that you're gonna need to get to that hospital. So, yeah, that's really important. That's, like, one of the most important things you can do right away.

Now if somebody's unresponsive, don't be shoving an aspirin down their mouth, because you're just gonna choke them. Start doing the CPR and AED like we talked about. But, yeah, if you're awake and you're having these symptoms, go ahead and do that and call 911. Don't try to drive yourself in. Oh my gosh, everybody does that. Not a good idea.

Russell: I hadn't heard of the aspirin before. That's so cool and so easy. Not that it's the final treatment, right? But it can add a few minutes. Right?

Dr. Blake Wachter: Well, I can make the difference between life or death in some cases. Yeah. Because when you come to the emergency room, if you're having chest pain, first thing the ER doc's gonna do is, have you had aspirin? Well, if you haven't, here you go. Chew them up. First thing they do.

Russell: What are some resources available to people, with their heart health? Where can they learn more?

Dr. Blake Wachter: Well, this podcast, that's for sure.

Melissa: I've learned a lot, so.

Dr. Blake Wachter: All kinds of places. I mean, there's, you know, Google. Everybody's out there googling everything and researching everything. There's all kinds of Internet hype on absolutely everything out there. So there's lots of places. And, unfortunately, you know, with all of the social media that we have, you know, some of it's good, some of it's bad, and it's too too much for me to say which part's good and which part's bad.

You just gotta kinda use common sense and critical thinking and think about stuff. One thing that I noticed is the fad diets and the fads this. You know? Oh, we've gotta do all this coconut oil, and then, you know, a couple of years later, oh, coconut oil's bad for you. Well, yeah, usually, though, the quick fixes and those, you know, those ads that you click on, usually, they're just hype. So for the most part.

Melissa: Are there some, like, local resources for people who wanna have a healthier heart or maybe who have heart health problems and want to find more information?

Dr. Blake Wachter: Well, American Heart Association is always a good resource. And, you know, the different, you know, clinics, that are out there, the cardiologist, you know, and if you have heart concerns, you can talk to your primary care doctor about that as well.

Chief Barney: Yeah.

Shelley-Firth Quick Response Unit has 5 CPR instructors. And throughout the year, we train probably 300 people. So we train the firemen from Firth, from Shelley, some of the Bingham County Sheriff's Office, and we do train the Shelley Police Department.

Dr. Blake Wachter: And you're certifying these people?

Chief Barney: Yes. We're certifying, and that's through AHA.

Dr. Blake Wachter: And what we do with the Foundation is we just do, like, training. We'll use that word. And the fact that, like, kinda like what I described to you guys, we'll show you what that means, and we'll have a mannequin.

We'll demonstrate it.

Melissa: Mhmm.

Dr. Blake Wachter: For instance, we do that at the Idaho State Fair every year. And in 2 days, this last fair, how many did we train?

Chief Barney: I think 340.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Oh my gosh. I know. It was tiring. It was exhausting.

Melissa: Quite the arm workout.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Yeah. No kidding. But training is different from getting certified. So, again, going back to the message, you don't have to be certified to save a life. Great.

When you show up, you know, yeah, we want you to be certified. But, like, to initially start trying to help somebody, just do it. Push on somebody's chest, grab an AED, call 911. You know, those are the three things.

Melissa: What are ways individuals in the community can help the community's heart health? What are ways people can get involved?

Chief Barney: Learn CPR.

Melissa: I was about to say it's like we talked about it, but I was like, did we miss anything?

Chief Barney: CPR is very important. And as Dr. Wachter said, it is so easy to do. Even if you're doing it wrong, you're at least making an effort, and bad CPR is better than no CPR.

Dr. Blake Wachter: I agree with that. You know, and just, you know, encourage your your friends, your peers, your family members, you know, healthy lifestyle choices, smoking, healthy choices with, you know, food, moderation. When people ask me like, "oh, does this mean, you know, I can't have a cheeseburger ever again or can't have an ice cream cone?" It's like, no.

That doesn't mean it. It just means moderation. And so, yeah, if you, you know, indulge, then you're probably not gonna... you're probably gonna end up having health problems.

Russell: Is there anything we missed you wanna talk about?

Chief Barney: First, who can have a heart attack?

Everybody could have a heart attack. Right? It doesn't matter how old you are, how young you are. The thing is is mostly in your younger generation of people, they'll have a respiratory issue, which that respiratory issue could turn into a cardiac arrest.

Dr. Blake Wachter: That's lungs.

Chief Barney: Yeah.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Yeah. They'll be short of breath or something.

Melissa: Like asthma or something.

Chief Barney: Yeah, asthma, things like that.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Well, asthma is not gonna cause a heart attack, but, like, people might be short of breath.

Chief Barney: But the respiratory part of it.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Yeah.

Russell: Like, it'll show up as respiratory issues. Is that what you're saying?

Dr. Blake Wachter: Like, meaning shortness of breath. Like, if you're unexplained short of breath and you don't have a history of asthma, let's say, then it could be something else, or it could be chest pain. You know, the symptoms can be really all different things, abdominal pain, back pain.

And as Lyle said, anybody can have a heart attack, even you, Lyle.

Chief Barney: That's correct. But to help somebody out there, I'll let you know. I had a widow-maker in September of 2022, and I would honestly say that the aspirin saved my life. I felt the pains, and I've seen witnessed a lot of people that are having heart attacks or some cardiac event that have described to me what they're feeling.

You know? A lot of them, it's elephant on the chest, sharp pain. Some of them don't even have a pain in their chest. They'll have a stomachache or they'll throw up. You know?

And that's all still to do with their heart. So when I was sitting on the couch and felt like somebody hit me with a hard ball from about 10 feet away, and it took my breath away. And I sat there for a minute. My wife said, "what's going on?" I said, "I don't know, but I'm gonna go take some aspirin."

And so I got up, took the aspirin, and then I became very anxious. I couldn't stand up. I couldn't sit down. I couldn't lay down. I tried everything.

Nothing was working. And, so this probably maybe a minute or 2 had passed, and all of a sudden, I become very diaphoretic.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Sweaty.

Chief Barney: Very sweaty. And it's just like you crawled out of the shower, and it's all at once.

It hits once. So I looked at my wife. I said, "this is real. Let's go."

Dr. Blake Wachter: You called 911?

Chief Barney: No. I did not. And I did not because of my location. And coming into town, I was headed right for this fire station on Saint Clair. And I told my wife I gave her directions.

I said, "drive fast. Put your four ways on. Don't stop for anybody. And if I crash, call 911, and they'll be there in 2 or 3 minutes." So, yes, I did go against that, but it was based on where I was located at the time.

Dr. Blake Wachter: And you knew where you were going, and you did not drive.

Chief Barney: No. I did not drive.

Dr. Blake Wacher: And we got you, and we got you up to the cath lab, and we fixed that widow-maker. The widow-maker is what people will refer to.

So there's 3 vessels to the heart that mainly work. There's a left anterior descending left circumflex, and a right coronary artery. So there's just 3 arteries. The big one is the left anterior descending or LAD, and that is the widow-maker.

Chief Barney: That's the one I had.

Dr. Blake Wahter: Yeah.

Chief Barney: But from the time I felt my chest pain until I was in the cath lab, I believe it was 23, 24 minutes is what they said. It was quick.

Dr. Blake Wachter: You felt better right away. Right?

Chief Barney: Yes. Yeah. It it took us about 8 minutes to get to the hospital, and then they next thing I know, they're putting IVs in me. They got AED pads on me in case I crash. And, I was in the cath lab, and I think I was in there for about 45 minutes.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Yeah. But we got it open right away.

Chief Barney: Yeah. It was opened up, but by the time they put a stand in, that's about the amount of time that it took. So I'm just grateful for having a little bit of knowledge of the medical field.

I'm grateful for Dr. Wachter, Dr. Gerlach, all the ones that were involved.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Doctor Gerlach was the one in the cath lab.

Chief Barney: Yeah. So everybody was amazing. They really were.

I guess it wasn't my time. That's that's all I could say because otherwise I mean, there's only, what, 3% of the people that live through a widow-maker without any heart damage. There's 7% that live through it, but there's only 3% that don't have heart damage.

Dr. Blake Wachter: So it's called a widow-maker because the left anterior descending takes up... it feeds blood to most of the heart area that's important for pumping. So if you take that out, your heart's instantly gonna feel that, and you're not gonna be able to pump blood.

So it's— you're basically shutting off oxygen to most of your heart immediately. And so that hurts. And if you don't get help, you die.

Chief Barney: Yeah. I had 99% occlusion, so I had 1% blood flow. So, again, I'm very grateful that everybody was involved.

Dr. Blake Wachter: And in this case, he didn't need the AED. You know, his heart rhythm didn't go into a bad rhythm, but a couple more minutes, and it easily could've.

Chief Barney: Yeah. I got a friend that works in the cath lab. He wasn't there that day, but a few days later, he got ahold of me, and he said, "with your permission, I can go in there and look and see what happened." And I said, "okay." He calls me back 5 minutes later. He said, "dude, you had about 3 more minutes. You would've been done."

Dr. Blake Wachter: Yeah.

Chief Barney: So it sounds like it was pretty serious, but it happened so fast. It's... I— I— don't even know how to explain it. From the time I had the chest pain still, I was down in the cath lab and on my way to my room was maybe an hour and 20, 30 minutes.

Dr. Blake Wachter: Now, thinking back, did you have any other symptoms leading up to that that you could then maybe think maybe it was part of that?

Chief Barney: I had a previous shoulder injury towards the labrum in my left shoulder, and I was actually helping a friend do some concrete work. And, of course, every time that a new pain would come up, I blame it on having to do the concrete work. I could always justify it. You know, something had happened, I'd slipped. I'd..

Dr. Blake Wachter: But that makes sense.

Chief Barney: I'd not lifted something right. So we're all in denial, honestly. And I denied it up to the point that I think a boy upstairs said, "pay attention this time or you're done."

Dr. Blake Wachter: But that's not uncommon. I mean, seriously, I mean, you had an injury.

It makes sense for you not I mean, to... you pick up something big and you've got an old shoulder injury. Like, that makes sense. I mean, I would've told you the same thing. Like, ah, it's your shoulder. Don't worry about it.

You know? But sometimes there's just a little bit more that tells you, it's not quite that shoulder injury anymore. Because there's a lot of people that— that's one thing about a heart attack. If it's happening, something tells you it's real. And that's what Lyle said.

Honey, it's real. If that talks to you, if that speaks to you, call 911. Or if you're in a proper vicinity, get yourself to the emergency room immediately. Listen.

Chief Barney: Yeah. And to reiterate why I did not call 911 is because the ambulance...

Dr. Blake Wachter: It would've taken longer to get to you. Yeah.

Chief Barney: ...it has to come from Idaho Falls out to the area I live in, which is about 12 minutes. You'll normally spend— even on something serious, you'll spend 3 to 5 minutes with the patient, get them loaded, come back in the same amount of time. So you've got 30, 35 minutes before you're ever in the hospital.

Dr. Blake Wachter: And at the time, you didn't have the LUCAS device, and you guys didn't have the right amount of AEDs. So yeah. Now you're loaded.

Cheif Barney: Yeah. So once again, I— like I said, I'm grateful for everybody that was a part of that because I've learned a lot. I actually taught a CPR class about 5 or 6 days after I got out of the hospital, and people were asking me, you know, "so can anybody have a heart attack?"

And I said, "yeah, anybody can have one." And they're like, "well, how would you describe it?" I said, "well, this is actually how you describe it." So I went into a little bit of detail on that. And hopefully sharing this today is helping someone out there be more aware of the things to look for.

And as Dr. Wachter said, listen to your gut because you'll always follow. You'll be right.

Dr. Blake Wachter: It's not always the same symptoms either for everybody. They say women have different symptoms—yes and no.

Yes. Yes, they do. And, you know, it can be just nausea out of nowhere that just is nagging at you. Could be back pain.

Could be, like, dizziness. Just something's just not right. And— but I've also seen that in men too. You know? So I had a patient who was like, "oh, yeah. I've got that, you know, that gut reflex going on every time I exercise." I'm like, "that's not a thing, hon. Let's go check your heart out." He needed open heart surgery at the end of it. So, you know, you gotta listen.

You gotta listen and, you know, know if it's right or not. But, you know, we have to pay attention to both genders. And throughout history, it's always been, you know, the men have had the heart attacks. And, actually, that's not true because, you know, women, the leading cause of death for women is cardiovascular disease. So, you know, we as the ladies in the community, we gotta take care of each other.

And I know that, you know, there's a Go Red, to help support cardiovascular disease in women for awareness of, that the American Heart Association supports. And that's something very important to think about. And we gotta— it depends on where you're at because with women, sometimes we're like, I gotta take care of everybody else first. You know? I gotta get the kids fed or I gotta get to work.

I gotta do this. I gotta do that. Oh, it's "I'm fine, honey. I'm fine. I'll be good."

You know, we tend to blow things off, and I get that. But I can also tell you a bunch of men who do the same thing. Oh, man. Now I'm not trying to stereotype for anything, but my farmers, man. Oh, boy.

They'll— it's calving season. "I'm not coming in. I gotta go fix it. I gotta go— yeah. We're gonna go up there."

You know? And so yeah. I get it. I get it. So we're... as we said in the beginning, this community is tough. We're tough, but we still have heart disease. We gotta listen to that, and we're here. We're tough too. Right, Lyle?

Chief Barney: Yes.

Dr. Blake Wachter: And we'll take care of you because that's what we do.

Russell: Thank you for sharing your experience.

Chief Barney: You betcha.

Russell: I think that's valuable.

Chief Barney: Like I said, I hope it helps someone out there listening today.

Melissa: We already talked about heart attacks, but is that the only thing you guys do with hearts?

Dr. Blake Wachter: No. Actually, there's so much that we do for cardiology here in Idaho Falls. It's amazing. Like, this is a small town growing, but we've got the big city cardiology here.

We can do bypass surgeries. We can replace your valves if need be. Even just without surgery, we can replace some of your valves. We can clip some of the valves. We can close, you know, holes in your heart sometimes that need to be closed, like PFOs that you might be born with.

If that's needed, we can do that. We can take care of AFib. We can take care of heart failure. We can take care of coronary disease, of course. We can take care of congenital problems, with people who are born with heart defects.

We do everything here. You know? There's all kinds of different— you know, we've got the cath lab. We've got Echos. We've got stress tests.

We've got all different things we can do to take care of the community here. You know, we serve both hospitals. It's amazing what we do here, and it's really cool. Why I picked Idaho Falls is because who I can be— I can make a difference in this community, and I wanted a community that we weren't gonna ship everything out to the next biggest city, you know, Salt Lake or Boise. And I feel honored and and blessed to be here— that, you know, we can provide this advanced heart cardiology care to our patients. And I think it's just showing that in the community.

And as the community grows, I think that's really important that the community knows that we do have the capabilities here, and it's outstanding.

Russell: What do you guys have have coming up in the future? Do you have any events or anything like that?

Dr. Blake Wachter: Yeah. Actually, we've got the Idaho Heart Ball 2024.

We're so excited about it. So the Heart Ball is on February 24th this year at 5:30 down at the Shoshone-Bannock. It is our only big fund fundraiser event that we have to raise money for all the wonderful things that we do in the Foundation. And the money goes towards buying AEDs like we talked about. We need to continue to buy AEDs for the state police.

We've gotta service a couple different areas also in the surrounding areas to get AEDs. And if they need further equipment, we'll do that. So that's where the money goes for. There's also a support the youth event that we have for free in the spring. I don't have a date for that yet, but that's where we can teach the youth CPR.

We can't call it a health fair because then they won't come, but it's a youth awareness event party. It's fun. We teach them that. So that's what it supports. And then we teach the community, you know, different events like we talked about— the state fair, and we also have scholarships to CEI for people who wanna go into health care.

So the money that we raise at the ball is— that's what we're doing with it. It all goes to the community. We're a legit 501c3 nonprofit organization. Nobody gets paid. We do it all out of the love of the community, and we're excited with the 2024... Our diamond sponsors, as always, are Idaho Falls Community Hospital and Mountain View Hospital. And this year, our gold sponsors, we're so excited, are Teton Auto Group and Select Health. So we're so happy that they're able to help us and sponsor the Heart Ball. And we still have tables left, so we're excited. We've got some tables.

And if you wanna, you know, assume individual tickets, a table that seats 10 is 2,500, and the individual tickets are 250, because this is an amazing event. It's formal, and we go all out, and we have a really good time. Shoshone-Bannock is... we work with them really great, and they have a hotel, so you can stay the night in case the weather's bad or, yeah, you did a little bit more than moderation if you're drinking or whatever. We wanna be safe, and it's a great time. The the website for the tickets is idaho heart foundation dot org.

And all you gotta do is, you know, click on the heart ball 2024. Get more information.

Melissa: Thank you.

Russell: We wanna thank Dr. Blake Wachter and Chief Lyle Barney for coming in today, And a special thanks to Idaho Falls Community Hospital. We couldn't have done this without their help.

Thank you for listening. Join us next month on the Riverbend Awareness Project.