Firefighter’s life saved by transport to STEMI center

Time is of the essence when it comes to saving the life of a heart attack victim. No one knows that better than Wildomar resident Bruce Moore, a firefighter/paramedic who has worked for North County Fire in Fallbrook for 20 years. While Moore routinely assists patients with health emergencies in his work, he experienced the scenario personally when he suffered a massive heart attack seven months ago.

“This was definitely an eye-opener for me,” said Moore.

Coworker John Buchanan said, “[The heart attack] was due to a blockage in the left interior descending artery of his heart, which covers two-thirds of the heart’s function. It’s what is referred to as ‘the widowmaker’ due to the patient’s chance of survival if a problem occurs.”

On Oct. 10, 2013, the 46-year-old father of two special needs children (ages five and six), had gotten off his shift at 8 a.m. in Fallbrook and driven to his home in Wildomar.

“I felt great,” said Moore. “When I got home, the kids were in school and I invited my wife to go to the gym with me, but she wasn’t feeling too well, so I went by myself. It’s only a mile away.”

Moore, well known by his coworkers to do “extreme” workouts (well exceeding the level of fitness required by his job), said he just did a “regular” amount of exercise that day.

“I ran three miles on the treadmill and just did an average upper-body workout,” he explained. “At the end of my workout, I started feeling nauseous; I didn’t really feel out of the norm, but I hadn’t worked out as hard as I do most of the time. However, I decided to go on home.”

Moore said he wasn’t having any chest pain at the time and proceeded to walk outside and get in his car.

“I started feeling more nauseous and thought I was going to throw up,” he said, adding that he sat in his car and drank water at that point. “All of a sudden it went away.” Moore proceeded to drive his car towards home when 200 yards down the street, things changed.

“I started feeling pain in the right side of my chest, so I began rotating my arm to see if it would relieve it,” he said. “I got to a stoplight and all of a sudden I felt like I had been punched in the chest; I started having trouble breathing.”

When the light turned green, Moore said he was concerned about holding up traffic and glanced in his rearview mirror to gauge how many vehicles were behind him.

“I looked in the mirror and saw the sickest person I’ve ever seen in my life as a medic; the face of the person was ashen gray; then I realized that person was me,” said Moore.

He then began sweating profusely, but was still not convinced he was having a cardiac event because he wasn’t experiencing any tingling or numbness in his arms or hands, he said.

“I continued to drive myself home (three-quarters of a mile),” he explained. “Luckily the garage door was open and my wife was visible. I got out of the car and said ‘Honey call 9-1-1, I don’t feel so good.” Moore took about 10 steps into his home when his vision failed and he fell face-first onto the floor.

“According to my wife, I wasn’t breathing, didn’t have a pulse and turned blue,” he said. “She called 9-1-1 on our house phone and then called our neighbors on her cell.”

Moore said he was unconscious for “about five minutes” and when he woke up “my neighbors were trying to log-roll me over.”

“I was so weak, but being a paramedic and knowing I was having trouble breathing, I told them to keep me on my side,” he said.

Cal Fire is the contracted paramedic service in Wildomar that responded to the emergency.

“When the paramedics came in, they immediately put me on a 12-lead EKG machine; I could see what my heart was doing and since I work with those all the time, I saw I was having a massive heart attack,” he said.

The captain with Cal Fire that was coordinating Moore’s transport via remote was Ty Davis. “Davis is a 16-year medic and he made the call; he told them to take me to Loma Linda in Murrieta.”

The reason Moore was taken to Loma Linda was because it is currently the only facility in that Southern Riverside county region with a designated cardiovascular catheterization laboratory (also known as a ‘cath lab’ or STEMI receiving center).

Moore’s life was saved because in less than an hour from the time of his heart attack, two stents were placed at different positions in the blocked artery, restoring blood flow circulation to his heart.

“I was in the hospital for three days – one day in ICU and two in a regular room,” said Moore.

Doctors told Moore his condition was genetically predisposed, as opposed to other causes that contribute to cardiovascular disease.

“I will never be able to work out again at a high (extreme) level again or do the power-lifting I was doing,” said Moore. “But fortunately, I can still function at a level above what is required for my job.”

After finishing 72 sessions of cardiac rehabilitation last week, Moore, an overall 25-year veteran of fire service, said he hopes to return to work at North County Fire in early June.

“It looks about 90 percent sure right now, but I do have one more test to go through,” he said.

On May 7, Moore made a trip to North County Fire’s Pala Mesa station for two purposes – one because he agreed to be filmed for a public service announcement for Loma Linda’s STEMI center which will air on television – and the other to visit with his coworkers who were part of his extensive firefighter family support network during his illness.

“When we have a firefighter go down, we make sure they are never alone,” explained Buchanan, referencing the Fallbrook Firefighters Association and in this case, the chiefs and administrative staff as well. “We had two people with him at all times – day and night – in four-hour shifts. When he returned home from the hospital, we provided dinners for 30 days for the family. It’s important to us to make sure the family’s needs are taken care of.” That not only includes food, but also yard work and other chores.

“It’s pretty overwhelming to have that type of support,” said Moore. “It’s really nice not to have to worry about dinner too!”

Buchanan said the expertise of Loma Linda’s talented doctors and state-of-the-art equipment allowed Moore’s life to be saved.

“It was a perfect scenario for success,” he said.

4 Responses to "Firefighter’s life saved by transport to STEMI center"

  1. Suzy Phelps   May 31, 2014 at 11:43 am

    As a Mom of a firefighter, im often concerned when you fight the horrendous fires, though proud of the job our son, and all of you Cal firefighters do everyday, You all are our heroes, Our familys thoughts and prayers go out to you Bruce Moore and your family, on your successful recovery, and what an eye opener for us all if we go thru what you endured, I will repost this article as a reminder, God Bless all of you. sincerely Suzy Phelps.

  2. Drew's Wife   May 31, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    You are so lucky you had Loma Linda to go to. My husband died in Temecula in 2009 of the same thing, a blockage in the LDA. Rancho Springs ER took 4….yes FOUR….hours to arrange transport to Riverside via ambulance and my sweet, dear husband died on the way to Riverside. Rancho Springs kept saying to me that he will be fine. He was only 58 years old and suffered intense pain for 4 hours trying to hold on. Shame on Rancho Springs Medical Center for dragging their feet and shame on Temecula/Murrieta for not insisting on a good hospital with cath lab for their population.

  3. Loma Lucky   May 31, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Excellent article! It informs that there is nothing typical about a heart attack. I’m so glad Mr. Moore got the treatment he needed and is doing well. Had he gone to any of the three sister hospitals in Southwest County, we might be reading an obituary instead. UHS has run the hospitals in this area for years yet doesn’t have the advanced care of other facilities. Loma Linda has been here a relatively short time, and shows their dedication to the community by making sure their facility provides advanced care to the community they serve.

  4. To Drew's Wife   June 3, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss and remember your story. I can’t believe Temecula Officials then courted that horrible hospital chain. A friend of mine was saved only after being airlifted from Rancho to the original Loma Linda before they built the recent facility. It seems like the luck of the draw in those emergency rooms. I’m too am ashamed of our city leaders who let you and Temecula residents down. Blessings to you.


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