To conclude National Heart Month, Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence held an event on Wednesday to commemorate all the first responders, LifeFlight Eagle nurses, physicians and hospital staff who were integral in saving the lives of some heart attack or stroke patients over the past year.

A half dozen former Centerpoint patients expressed their gratitude to the scores of medical workers, as well as the EMS crews in attendance. Each heart attack or stroke survivor was awarded a “New Chance in Life” certificate, marking their “second birthday,” while some EMS workers received a certificate of recognition in their life-saving efforts.

It was an emotional reunion between doctor and patient.

“This is the first time I can put a face on who saved me,” said Robert Ganson of Higginsville.

In July 2014, Ganson was Life-Flighted from his hometown to Centerpoint while having a heart attack. The middle-aged man arrived at the hospital just over an hour and 23 minutes later, he had an angioplasty and treatment performed on him while never leaving the helicopter gurney; beating the 90-minute national standard within minutes.

A week prior to his heart attack, Ganson said he experienced flu-like symptoms, followed by a sharp pain that radiated to his left shoulder. His potentially fatal condition was attributed to a “little piece of plaque,” despite having low cholesterol and a healthy Body Mass Index.

“I even spent 45 minutes on the elliptical (trainer) the night before.”

According to Centerpoint’s Cardiovascular Services Director Michelle Myer, heart disease is the no. 1 killer of men and women in America, at the cost of $300 billion each year.

“...83 million adults, or 1 in 3, have had at least one form of cardiovascular disease,” she said during the Great Save event. “Half of all deaths happen before they arrive to the hospital.”

For former patient Vickie Foster, stress took a toll on her as she cared for her elderly parents. In May 2014, she experienced chest pressure, accompanied with shortness of breath. The EKG at Centerpoint indicated that she was having a bona fide heart attack.

It took a total of 77 minutes for Foster to enter the hospital and have a stent procedure completed, another example of being under the 90-minute national standard.

“I just want to thank you for what you do for a living,” Foster told the medical staff in attendance.

Myer explained that Centerpoint is a “comprehensive cardiac system.” The medical center features radial angioplasty, an alternative that allows a patient to “sit up and go” rather than to lie flat on their backs for six to eight hours immediately after the procedure. Also, the cardiovascular unit offers calcium scoring, a non-invasive operation that detects any calcium build-up within the wall of arteries.

“(Cardiac care) is constantly evolving,” she said about the field of medicine, compared to Centerpoint Cardiologist Paul Nagar recalling when he first began his practice on how hospitals used to place cardiovascular patients in an oxygen tent and “see if they made it or not.”

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,” said former patient Gina Wallace, who in 2009 had a 14-hour open heart surgery with a 5 percent chance of survival, “but by the moments that take our breath away.”