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DIY or die: How an Australian outback nurse diagnosed his own heart attack and saved his life

Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

How does the nurse's story end?

He lives to be airlifted by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to a cardiology unit in Perth. There, cardiologists confirm severe narrowing of his heart's mid-right coronary artery and mild left ventricular systolic dysfunction.

A stent -- a tiny device that opens the patient's occluded artery -- is threaded to the spot of bother and deposited there to keep it open. A mere 48 hours later, the man returns to his remote outpost in Coral Bay, Western Australia.

His true story is recounted in a case study published in this week's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"In the absence of other trained medical personnel or resources, the actions of this patient are likely to have had a substantial beneficial effect on the clinical outcome," write three treating physicians at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Nedlands, Western Australia.

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"However," they say, "a person's self-management of a myocardial infarction cannot be considered medically appropriate if any other option is available."

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