Newswise — Kerry Lee has dealt with a lifetime of heart problems. He’s undergone both open heart surgery and the less-invasive heart catheter repair. Through it all, there’s no doubt which procedure he prefers—catheter repairs.


For the third year in a row, Harris Health System’s Ben Taub Hospital cardiac service, which specializes in less-invasive catheter procedures, has been recognized with the Mission: Lifeline® Gold Plus Receiving Center award by the American Heart Association. Additionally, the hospital also received the Mission: Lifeline® NSTEMI-Silver Achievement Award.


“I’ve had several stents and catheter procedures and the pain and recovery time is nothing compared to the excruciating pain and months of recovery time for my one bypass surgery,” Lee says. “I wouldn’t have any reservation recommending Ben Taub Hospital and the less-invasive catheter procedure to anyone.”


Lee is not alone in his recommendation of Ben Taub Hospital, which now ranks among the elite in the U.S. for its great success in treating ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) and non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) cases—heart attacks caused by complete or partial blockages to the heart muscle. As a STEMI receiving center, Ben Taub Hospital has the equipment and expertise to administer life-saving percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), a minimal surgery to quickly unclog blood vessels. Unfortunately, only 25 percent of hospitals in the nation offer this procedure.


Dr. Nasser Lakkis, chief, Cardiology, Ben Taub Hospital, and chair and professor, General and Interventional Cardiology, Baylor College of Medicine, says testimonials from patients like Lee are what motivate him and his team to work hard to offer the best heart care available.


“The American Heart Association award acknowledges that every patient who comes to our hospital with chest pain and heart attack symptoms will get quick, efficient care every hour of the day,” he says. “As a matter of fact, patients at our hospital get the care they need in half the time of the national standard of 90 minutes—usually around 45 minutes.”


And time really counts. Each year, 250,000 people in the U.S. suffer STEMIs. How quickly they receive expert and timely treatment could be the difference between life and death or significant disability.


Lee’s recent successful stent procedure opened up clogged blood flow to his heart that was causing him to feel weak and tired. After a few days of recovery, 60-year-old Lee plans to resume many of his pastimes like helping his wife of 40 years around the house, reading and his duties as pastor of his church in Crosby, Texas, his hometown.


In 2011, the American Heart Association and the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care began identifying STEMI care facilities. Ben Taub began as a Bronze award recipient in 2013, a Silver award recipient in 2014 and a Gold recipient for 2015 and 2016. The goal of the program is to improve cardiac patient outcomes, improve care and identify hospitals achieving high success of caring for severe heart attacks.


“We commend Ben Taub Hospital and Harris Health System for this achievement award, which reflects a significant institutional commitment to the highest quality of care for their heart attack patients,” said Dr. James G. Jollis, chair, Mission: Lifeline Advisory Working Group. “Achieving this award means the hospital has met specific reporting and achievement measures for the treatment of their patients who suffer heart attacks and we applaud them for their commitment to quality and timely care.”