Gulf Coast MC saves lives with tuneful video

Staff, patients and family members reacted with delight and surprise when a flash mob rose to dance in the Gulf Coast Medical Center cafeteria. A cheery, Caribbean-flavored melody filled the air, as the dancers moved along to reinforce the words: “Back pain, stomach pain, shortness of breath/ Cold sweats, nausea, dizziness/If you know the symptoms and heed the signs/You’ll be around for a long, long time.”

It was an entertaining way to educate people about women’s heart attack symptoms, which are often ignored. Cardiovascular Nurse Navigator Sommer Hoyt found the song and dance routine through the national Spirit of Women organization, which focuses on women’s health issues.
“I worked with Kim Gleason, another nurse from our hospital, to teach the dance so we could film a video that would be shown at a Girl’s Night Out event for 1,500 women,” said Hoyt. “We decided it would be something fun to do. It was one of those things that pulled everyone together. And then it ended up saving someone’s life.”

A hospital employee in the cafeteria with her mother witnessed the surprise dance. The following week, her mother had some of the symptoms mentioned in the song. She came in to get checked out.

Video gets immediate results

“She did have a blockage,” Hoyt said. “And we were able to open it up and keep her from having a major heart attack. That was a huge deal for me.”

The need to educate women about heart attack symptoms they may experience is very personal to Hoyt. Her mother passed away from a heart attack at the age of 50. She was a healthy weight, fit and active, and did not smoke. She didn’t fit the preconceived profile, and the back pain and indigestion she was experiencing in the weeks leading up to the attack were not recognized, even by her doctor, as a symptom of heart attack.

Years later Hoyt’s husband experienced chest pain, and she insisted he see a doctor. He had a triple bypass at age 37, though he was fit and a non-smoker. Then, in 2008, Hoyt herself felt out of sorts. Even with her training and her mother’s history, her first instinct was to downplay the symptoms. But she did see her doctor, and they discovered an artery defect. She now takes medication to keep it under control. She also started eating healthier and exercising, leading to a 40-pound weight loss.

Hoyt’s passion for educating women about heart attack signs helped make the video a huge success. Participation was high, even with the time required to learn the dance moves.
“We held several dance lessons for five weeks leading up to the actual video filming,” she said. “We also had the lessons online. On the day of filming we went from one section of the hospital to the next and caught employees who were working but had learned the steps and could stop for a few minutes to be on the video.”

After showing it at Girl’s Night Out, Hoyt posted the video on YouTube, where hundreds more saw it and got the message.

“Women often feel like we are exempt from illness, and we mask serious symptoms by downplaying them. If women recognize the signs of a heart attack, they can call 911 and get to the emergency room or at minimum see their doctor immediately.”

To see the video, click here.