My acupuncture school was thankfully on break for the month of July as classes ran ceaselessly during the other eleven months of the year. My then husband’s cousin, who happened to live across the street, called and said he was having chest pains and pain running down his left arm. He asked me what he should do and I told him to call 911 as it sounded like a heart attack. My ex-husband went over to his house straight away to assist.
To my amazement, the two of them drove back over to my house and the cousin entered in through the back door. I asked, “What are you doing here? You should be going to the hospital!” The cousin, who weighed over 400 pounds, was struggling to catch his breath as he explained, “My doctor is out of town and won’t be available until the morning”. I was shocked, and replied, “There are other doctors!” The cousin had worked at a local teaching hospital for over twenty years as a librarian and had developed strong opinions concerning the abilities of the doctors practicing there. He absolutely refused to go to the hospital until he was assured that his chosen MD was ready to care for him. He wanted to know if there was anything I could do; otherwise, he was going back to his recliner at home and take his chances.
Given this ultimatum, I sprang into action and had him move into a chair where I could treat him quickly. Luckily, one of my professors had recently relayed an incident on an airplane where a gentleman was experiencing a heart attack and they could not land for an hour. He was able to stop the symptoms the traveler was experiencing using acupuncture long enough for the emergency landing and first responders to remove the man.
The main acu-points that are used are located on the proximal medial and lateral edges of the pinky nail bed; they are HT 9 and SI 1. An individual can bite down on the pinky finger in this area if they suspect they are having a cardiac episode. In this case, I needled those points along with PER 7, LU 10, HT 7, 8, KI 3, REN 17 and ST 36. His breathing evened out and he reported that he was symptom-free within a few minutes. We left the needles in for 45 minutes before he went back home.
The correct action in a situation like this IS to call 911; licensed acupuncturists have to take an ethics test every four years with this very query, and the national boards have the same question. I would not advise anyone to pursue this treatment protocol unless other options are unavailable, or while waiting on first responders. In this case, the cousins fell asleep in his recliner soon after the treatment. He was symptom-free throughout the night and woke up the next morning at 6:30 AM when the heart attack resumed. He also survived the triple-by-pass that was performed that morning by his chosen doctor.