(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Moments matter when anyone suffers a heart attack.

But it’s not just about how fast the ambulance can get a heart attack victim to the hospital. It’s also about how fast the hospital can treat the patient. National guidelines give hospitals 90 minutes.

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As doctors and health workers at Medical City Dallas Hospital work toward quickening their pace, they were able to treat a recent heart attack victim in 11 minutes.

It was a record for the hospital and they’re proud of it.

Medical City workers say that when it comes to heart attacks, “Time is muscle.”

Hospitals measure the time it takes to treat a heart attack patient from the moment paramedics bring them through the ER door, to the instant balloon angioplasty open a blocked artery. They call it door-to-balloon response time.

The average door-to-balloon response time for hospitals in Texas is 58 minutes. The team at Medical City Dallas Hospital took care of patient Chris Matthew last Wednesday in that record 11 minutes.

Sitting in his hospital bed Friday, Matthew said, “I’m extremely grateful.”

Matthew, a Garland resident, was at work in Dallas Wednesday afternoon, when he had a case of heartburn coming on.

He’d eaten a bowl of Ramen Noodle Soup and felt a burning sensation in his chest.

After a while he recognized the all too familiar signs of a heart attack.

“I started sweating really bad. Started feeling pain down my arm,” he remembered. “And, that’s when I went to one of my co-workers and had them call 911.”

At the age of 39, Matthew had already had two heart attacks, but multiple heart attacks run in his family.

“My grandfather had multiple heart attacks. So did my father. And, this is my third,” he said matter-of-factly.

Dallas Fire Rescue paramedics were called to pick up Matthew in an ambulance.

Dr. Michael Isaac, a Medical City Dallas cardiologist, received a call too. He was in his office, just a half-mile walk from the hospital.

Dr. Isaac said he hurried to the ER.

“As I was walking from my office, I used my cell phone. ‘Get the cath lab ready. Have this catheter ready. Have this balloon ready. Have this wire ready. I’ll meet you there’,” he remembers telling his staff.

A team was already waiting for Matthew in the ER. But they weren’t stopping there.

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Matthew remembers what happened when he arrived.

“Come in toward the ER and they said, ‘Nope, take him straight to the cath lab’,” he said.

The cath lab, located in a different part of the hospital, is where Matthew would have an immediate balloon angioplasty.

Kim Patterson, the EMS Supervisor, says it takes a couple of minutes to get to the cath lab and with Matthew the staff practically sprinted.

“You’ve got a team in place running to the cath lab to save this man’s life,” she said.

They were on their way when Dr. Isaac in the ER. Finding out they had just left, he rushed to the cath lab himself and made it just as Matthew was being transferred to the surgical table.

Within minutes, Dr. Isaac had a picture of the clogged artery. It was a confirmation.

“I saw the EKG. I knew which artery would be the problem.”

Matthew’s EKG had been sent to Dr. Isaac and the medical staff. It arrived at the hospital before he did. The EKG was taken inside the ambulance and transmitted to the hospital.

“Next thing I know, I’m in the cath lab getting my angioplasty,” Matthew said.

Inside the cath lab, Dr. Isaac showed three images of Matthew’s artery. One shows a completely blocked artery. The next shows the balloon. The last one shows the restored flow.

The time it took the hospital to get to that point was 11 minutes.

Hospitals have been working to improve their time through the American Heart Association Dallas Caruth Initiative.

The goal is to streamline protocols between participating hospitals and EMS agencies. A $3.5 million Caruth Foundation grant is funding the project.

Matthew was treated at other hospitals when he had his other two heart attacks.

“Most of the time, you sit in an ER exam room until they get somebody down there or something,” he said.

As for being the record Medical City Dallas Hospital patient, Matthew said, “I hope it doesn’t end with me. Because that will save a lot more lives and probably increase the quality of life of more heart attack victims.”

Doctors say patients can also help speed up their own recovery time by calling for help during the first signs of a heart attack.

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