A hospital in Monroe County is now certified as a Primary Heart Attack Center.

Lehigh Valley Hospital—Pocono is the first in Pennsylvania and only one of four to earn the Joint Commission’s recognition.

That means the life saving care is in your own backyard.

Anytime there’s a blockage in your heart, the clock starts ticking. Doctors refer to it as ‘time is muscle.'

Registered Nurse Mary Grace Conklin of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab says, "The longer you wait to get your care, the more muscle that is damaged. The more muscle that is damaged, the more complications that you can have down the road."

That’s why it’s important to have the highest quality care close to home if you should have a heart attack. The ESSA Heart and Vascular Center at Lehigh Valley Hospital—Pocono underwent a rigorous onsite review in November and is now a Primary Heart Attack Center.

Conklin says, "We are the first in the state and only the fourth in the country to achieve this certification."

Reviewers went over their records and did onsite interviews. The staff is required to be ready 24/7 to treat a massive attack and had to meet time standards through the whole process in getting blood flowing normally to the heart.

Conklin says, "EMS arrives at the patient, EMS brings the patient to the hospital, they get their EKG in the hospital, the cath lab staff gets down to pick the patient up, brings them up to the unit and when the doctors are able to open up the blockage."

When it comes to your heart, this is a full-service hospital. They have procedures and staff that you can’t find anywhere else in the county.

Medical Director Karthik Sheka of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab says, "We can handle not just the routine heart attack care but a lot of the specialty issues that happen in people with advanced heart attack and advanced heart failure."

They also have a device available to help you that most other hospitals do not.

Sheka says, "An Impella Device which is a form of an assist device for the heart for the sickest of all patients with heart attacks. We’ve used it several times within the last year to save lives."

But no matter where you go to get care, if you’re having chest pain, we’re told the best thing you can do is call 9-1-1 so you can start being helped immediately.