"On July 15, the furthest thing from my mind was having a heart attack," said Jim Knauf at a recent Ravenna Chamber of Commerce luncheon at University Hospitals Portage Medical Center.

As recently as April, he’d had a healthy stress test, and, in spite of high blood pressure and mild blockage in 1995, Knauf said he felt good.

But, on July 15, Knauf did have a heart heart attack. Right "in the midst of a very good conversation," he experienced "the most incredible pain across my chest, and it continued into my back, and I couldn’t get comfortable."

911 was called and Knauf headed to UH Portage Medical Center, making the trip in about 20 minutes.

"As the doors opened, there was Dr. Gupta, and I was quickly rolled into a cath lab with staff," said Knauf.

"Dr. Gupta" is Dr. Anjan Gupta, an interventional cardiologist at UH Portage Medical Center, who joined the hospital in 2016 as UH was planning to expand its interventional cardiology program in Ravenna, according to Tom Connor, director of clinical services and service line operations at UH Portage Medical Center.

"We didn’t really know how many people in the area would benefit from it," said Connor. "It was hard to kind of predict what the impact would be."

Connor said cath lab success is built around time, specifically a measure referred to as "door to balloon time," the "balloon" referring to a device unblocking the artery. Prior to Gupta’s arrival, many cases that now go the cath lab in Ravenna for interventional procedures used to go to UH Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood, adding travel time. Every minute counts as heart muscle continues to be damaged as a heart attack continues.

En route to the hospital, he said EMS crew members took his blood pressure, did a couple EKGs and took his medical history.

"I had one blockage of 100 percent and two more of 80 percent," Knauf said. "With the information Dr. Gupta had, he elected to put one stent into the [full] blockage and waited two days to put the other one in."

Knauf said Gupta and the staff were ready for him.

"Dr. Gupta shared with me 11 minutes was his previous record," said Knauf. "Dr. Gupta and his team completed the insertion in nine minutes."

At the time, Knauf’s procedure was the record, but that quickly changed.

James Bates of Mantua was driving to work on Sept. 12 when he began experiencing chest pains. They went on for about an hour before he pulled over in a parking lot in Aurora and called 911. The call came in as a possible stroke, but when paramedics arrived on the scene and did an EKG, they realized Bates was experiencing STEMI, a type of heart attack, according to a UH news release.

In six minutes, Gupta "sucked out the clot through mechanical aspiration at 10:42 a.m. and then placed a stent," according to the UH news release.

"I knew exactly when they released it and opened it up. It was like, wow! I just felt it immediately. It was kind of weird, being aware of it the whole time," said the 64-year-old who had been experiencing tiredness for three to four weeks prior to his heart attack.

Connor said the cath lab in Ravenna, which is 17 years old, has become much busier since Gupta’s arrival.

"By 2015, we only did 200 heart paths," he said. "We were not doing very financially well as a hospital; we didn’t know who our partner was going to be."

This was before the merger between Robinson Memorial Hospital and University Hospitals was finalized, he explained. When Gupta came, the hospital brought on new staff for the program.

"We projected 37 interventions for the first year," said Connor. "We did 37 interventions in our first month."

With the expansion of the cath lab operations, Connor said the hospital has plans to open a new one in December.

"Not only are we doing 1,800 procedures (annually), we’re doing it all in one cath lab," he said. "Most facilities, if they’re doing that many procedures, they’re doing them in two or three cath labs."

A second new cath lab is planned after the new one opens in December, he added. The new labs will cost a total of about $4.5 million, according to Connor.

Shawn Gordon, executive director of the UH Portage Medical Center Foundation, said earlier this year the foundation will work this year to raise about $1.5 million for the second cath lab, which is dependent on fundraising.