Emergency Room:

Prepared for the Unexpected

John P. Hancock, age 71, is an electrical designer who traveled to southern California for a large-scale project. He was working in shifts of four-hours followed by two hours of sleep, his energy fueled by 14 cups of coffee per day. 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.

“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 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, 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 as soon as a stroke is diagnosed, a neurologist is called,” says Janice McKinzie, B.S.N., manager 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 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 of emergency services at 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 that 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, has now been officially recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program®. Only 34 out of California’s 400 hospitals have met this organization’s rigorous standards.

“Being from out of town, I can not 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.”

Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room Guide

When experiencing symptoms of illness, or after an accident, the choice to visit an urgent care or the emergency room isn’t always clear. Marc Taub, M.D., medical director of emergency services at Saddleback Medical Center, offers a partial list of symptoms to help guide your decision.

“If your condition can be handled by your regular doctor, but you can’t get an appointment, visit an Urgent Care. If your condition develops suddenly, is life-threatening, or you’ve suffered a traumatic injury, go straight to the Emergency Room or call 9-1-1,” says Dr. Taub.



• Men—Pressure, discomfort or crushing pain in chest; pain radiating to one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath; cold sweat; nausea 

• Women—Pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in chest; pain in back or jaw; shortness of breath; cold sweat; nausea; light-headedness


• Confusion

• Slurred speech

• Severe headache

• Sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis

• Loss of balance or coordination

• Sudden change in vision


• Difficulty breathing 

• Coughing blood

• Severe abdominal pain

• Severe vomiting and/or diarrhea

• Seizures

• Drug overdoses 

• Loss of consciousness


• Head or spinal injuries

• Severe burns

• Complex fractures or dislocated joints

• Uncontrollable bleeding


• Fever

• Ear or throat pain

• Persistent vomiting or diarrhea

• Painful urination

• Mild asthma

• Minor burns, rashes or other skin irritations
• Animal bites

• Minor trauma, such as a sprain or shallow cut

• Infections

• Nose bleeds

• Simple fractures

When it’s urgent, visit our San Juan Capistrano Urgent Care
​31001 Rancho Viejo Road, Suite 200



Is it a Stroke?

Know the signs

May is Stroke Awareness Month, recognizing that stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and the number one cause of disabilities in the U.S. After the age of 55, the risk of having a stroke more than doubles. The key to minimizing the long-term effects of a stroke is to B.E. F.A.S.T.

For more information on our Stroke Program, click here or call 1.800.MEMORIAL (1.800.636.6742).


alance. Is there a sudden loss of balance or coordination? 


yes. Are there sudden vision changes? 


ace. Does one side of the face droop?


 rm or Leg Weakness. Does one arm/leg drift downward when raised?


peech slurred or strange sounding?


 ime is short. If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.


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MemorialCare is a nonprofit integrated healthcare delivery system that includes leading hospitals – Long Beach Medical Center, Miller Children's & Women's Hospital Long Beach, Community Medical Center Long Beach, Orange Coast Medical Center, and Saddleback Medical Center; award-winning medical groups – MemorialCare Medical Group and Greater Newport Physicians; Seaside Health Plan; and convenient outpatient health centers, imaging centers, breast centers, surgical centers, and dialysis centers throughout Orange and Los Angeles Counties.

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