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Shadows Foundation Working for Emergency Responders

 The Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff Medical Center and the Shadows Foundation are teaming up to provide free cardiac screenings for firefighters, police and emergency medical services personnel. Experts believe that working in fast-paced, high-stress conditions such as dangerous and life-threatening environments, life-saving circumstances and unfamiliar surroundings, along with strenuous physical activity and interrupted sleep and eating patterns can place a large strain on the heart and exacerbate underlying conditions. The advanced screenings can detect heart conditions which may not show up during annual physicals and other mandatory health and fitness tests. The goal of the Shadows Foundation Hearts Worth Saving screening program is the early detection of heart disease to this high-risk population. According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Fire Administration, heart attacks were the most common cause of death among firefighters with 44 percent of all firefighter deaths being the result of heart attacks or strokes. In contrast, internal and head injuries resulted in 27 percent of deaths; suffocation and burns were only 20 percent. A 2008 study by St. Joseph’s Hospital in Georgia found firefighters had up to a 300 percent increased risk for heart disease as compared to the general population. As many as one-third of firefighters had heart disease that was unrelated to traditional risk factors (high blood pressure or cholesterol, obesity, diabetes), and 75 percent of heart attacks occurred while on active duty. The increased risk of heart disease was due to the combination of genetics and the firefighter’s work environment. Patrick Burns, a local firefighter, is a prime example of how his genetics and career nearly killed him. In November 2009, Patrick had a heart attack. His fellow firefighters at Summit Fire Department and paramedics from Guardian Medical Transport sped to his rescue. They started life-saving care on Patrick and quickly transported him to Flagstaff Medical Center. Patrick had a critical blockage in one of the arteries in his heart that was opened after a stent was placed into the artery. Prior to that day, Patrick had no idea that his family history of heart disease and the stress of being a firefighter was a heart attack waiting to happen. Today, Patrick is an advocate for advanced heart screenings for all first responders. He contacted the Shadows Foundation with the idea of developing a free advanced heart screening program for first responders. The Foundation reached out to FMC and HVCNA and the Hearts Worth Saving program was born. All tests will take place at HVCNA and FMC. A generous grant from the Shadows Foundation will pay for any charges not covered by insurance so that participants do not have to pay any out-of-pocket fees for the life-saving tests. In March, firefighters and EMTs from Summit Fire and officers from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office are among the first agencies to take part in the screenings. Other agencies scheduled for screenings throughout the year include the Flagstaff, Highlands, Ponderosa, Pinewood and Camp Navajo Fire Departments; national and local Forest Service personnel; Flagstaff and Northern Arizona University Police Departments; Department of Public Safety; Guardian Air and Guardian Medical Transport. The Shadows Foundation is a local, nonprofit organization based in Flagstaff. By collaborating with local businesses and generous private donors, seeking grant submissions and holding fund-raising events, the foundation provides financial assistance and services to individuals and their families affected by life-threatening diseases. For more information, visit shadowsfoundation.com or call 928 522-2701. The Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona (HVCNA) is a physician practice offering services ranging from general cardiology and the treatment of chronic heart and vascular conditions to advanced surgical techniques, including open heart surgery. HVCNA is a partnership between FMC and Verde Valley Medical Center with offices located in Camp Verde, Cottonwood, Flagstaff, Sedona and Winslow. For more information, visit NAHeartCare.com. To make an appointment, call 877 928-WELL

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