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John P. Hancock, age 71, is an electrical designer who traveled to Southern California for a large-scale project. Driving back to his hotel on the 405 freeway after a successful presentation, John's heart began racing and beating erratically.

"Pressure started to center in my chest; then pain began, spreading along my right carotid artery to my jaw, making it difficult to swallow," John recalled. "I instinctively knew that I was experiencing a significant cardiac event. I pulled over and checked my phone for the nearest emergency room, then exited at El Toro Road."

Fortunately for John, the nearest emergency room was at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center, a designated Cardiac Receiving Center in Laguna Hills.

"Our ER team works like a NASCAR pit crew," says Karen Sharp, M.S.N., director of emergency services and advanced wound healing at Saddleback Medical Center. "We have rigorous protocols in place, so patients are efficiently assessed and stabilized."

Every nurse at Saddleback Medical Center has Advanced Cardiac and Pediatric Life Support training. Every physician is board certified in Emergency Medicine, and a cardiologist is always available. For patients who need further intervention for heart issues, such as angioplasty or stent insertion, the state-of-the-art catheterization lab is immediately down the hall, enabling the hospital to average "door-to-balloon times" of just 48 minutes—well below the American Heart Association's 60-minute recommendation.

The Saddleback Medical Center's emergency room staff is also highly trained to assess and treat stroke patients quickly to avoid or minimize brain damage. "Time is brain, so when an acute stroke is suspected, our stroke team immediately goes into action," says Marc Taub, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services at, Saddleback Medical Center. "Neurologists are available in-person or through telemedicine video calls for immediate neuro-assessments and to provide recommendations for the next steps, which may include clot-busting medication or transfer to the cath lab for neuro-intervention."

Saddleback Medical Center has been honored with the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association Stroke Care Gold Plus award, and is one of only a few U.S. hospitals to earn the Thrombectomy-Capable Stroke Center certification from The Joint Commission, in collaboration with American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. The hospital meets rigorous standards for performing endovascular thrombectomy (EVT), a specialized procedure to remove a blood clot from the brain during an ischemic stroke.

"Saddleback Medical Center is a designated stroke receiving center and has specially trained neurologists and neurosurgeons who can extract a blood clot from the brain using a very thin catheter," says Tri Tong, M.D., assistant medical director, emergency services, Saddleback Medical Center. "Thrombectomies, the removal of the clot, are the most advanced level of care and we are one of only eight facilities in Orange County that have this capability."

John believes the emergency team saved his life with their expertise and advanced technology, and was so moved by the compassion and humanity of those who treated him that he flew back to southern California to give his assigned nurse a DAISY award, which recognizes extraordinary nurses. The outstanding care and compassion for which nurses at Saddleback Medical Center are known for is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Magnet Recognition Program®. Only 8 percent of U.S. hospitals have met this organization's rigorous standards.

"Being from out of town, I cannot have been luckier to have found the best possible care, in a moment when time was working against me. The doctors and nurses at Saddleback Medical Center saved my life because they were prepared for the unexpected."