Visitors can walk through replica heart

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 30, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Thump-thump, thump-thump. Visitors at this weekend’s Autumn Jubilee can walk through a giant inflatable human heart, complete with its own heartbeat soundtrack.
The Mega Heart, rented by Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast and shipped in for the weekend from Texas with its own caretaker, stands 12 feet high, 21 feet long and 15 feet wide.
“It’s wonderful, education-wise,” said Don Bringle, director for Rowan County Parks and Recreation.
Nurses will give guided tours of the heart from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Sunday, including a mini-anatomy lesson, cardiovascular functions and signs of heart disease.
Physicians will be on hand to talk about heart attacks and answer questions.
“There may even be some early detection that goes on here this weekend,” Bringle said.
The Mega Heart isn’t the only medical marvel making its Autumn Jubilee debut. The Concord hospital also will show off the newest truck in its Mobile Intensive Care Unit fleet, a $300,000 mega ambulance that transports critically sick patients from hospital to hospital all over the state.
“It’s an ICU on wheels,” said Keith Cook, coordinator for the unit.
The huge blow-up heart, Cook said, is a great idea.
“It gets people’s attention. There are so many people who don’t know or don’t pay attention to the signs of a heart attack,” he said. “This might give them a wake-up call.”
CMC-Northeast spent $8,500 on the Mega Heart, a small price to pay considering that 60,000 people are expected to attend Autumn Jubilee over two days, said Gayle Deal, executive director of business and community outreach for CMC-NorthEast.
“We thought it was a good investment and a reasonable price to pay to bring education to the masses,” Deal said.
Even children can learn something from the Mega Heart, she said.
“Hopefully they will remember something they saw in that heart as they play, and think about their heart and their health,” Deal said.
Visitors can complete a risk assessment form at the park and take home risk factor cards, said Amanda Thompson, director of cardiac services for CMC-NorthEast. Nurses will take visitors’ blood pressure and give them a close look at stents and pacemakers, she said.
Paramedic Andrea LeClair said at the first sign of a heart attack, people should call 911.
On the job for two years with Cabarrus County EMS, LeClair said heart attack patients have been some of the most critical and time-sensitive cases she’s seen.
“The quicker they get to medical care, the better the outcome,” she said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.
Want to go?
What: 32nd annual Autumn Jubilee.
Where: Dan Nicholas Park,  6800 Bringle Ferry Road.
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Sunday.
Stuff to do: Entertainment, crafts, children’s area, games, heritage village.
Free admission and parking.
Health tips
How can I lower my risk of heart disease?
Quit smoking
Improve cholesterol levels
Control high blood pressure
Control diabetes
Get active
Eat right
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
Manage stress
How do I know if I might be having a heart attack? 
Symptoms can include:
• Chest discomfort that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. Can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
• Discomfort in arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath.
• Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.
If you think you or someone you know of having a heart attack, call 911.