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Emily Tamberino

VAIL CO — Three years ago Dave Bentley was wrapping up a ski day at Vail when he started having pain in his chest. Healthy and active with no history of medical issues the 65-year-old Cordillera resident assumed it was something he'd eaten for lunch.

“It was a ski-with-the-guys day—strong all-out. We had a late lunch and were halfway down Bear Tree when all of a sudden I started to get a sharp pressing pain high in my chest” Bentley recalls. “There was no throbbing no tingling of the arm. I thought it was some sort of really bad indigestion.”

By the time Bentley reached the bottom of the mountain his pain was so intense it was making him sweat. Luckily his ski buddy worked in the medical field and recognized Bentley's symptoms as a possible heart attack. He was put into an ambulance taken to Vail Valley Medical Center stabilized and transported via helicopter to Denver where cardiologist Dr. Jerry Greenberg was waiting for him.

“Dr. Greenberg was out to meet the helicopter and got me connected to the gurney. He literally jogged into the Cath Lab to get me going. It was that critical” Bentley recalls.

As it turns out Bentley was undergoing a type of heart artery blockage ominously dubbed by medical experts as “The Widow Maker.” Access to a Cardiac Catheterization Lab (Cath Lab) was critical and Dr. Greenberg's expertise and quick response were life-saving. He inserted a stent to unblock the artery and Bentley was able to walk away amazingly unscathed.

Had his friend not recognized the symptoms of a heart attack had he been higher up on the mountain had the weather been worse and caused a delayed helicopter flight had he not arrived at the Denver Cath Lab so quickly ... had any of these pieces played out differently Bentley likely wouldn't be the one telling his story.

“Had any one of those steps gone south I wouldn't have made it” he says. “I'm a lucky guy.”

Heart attacks on the mountain are not uncommon and in winter weather conditions can present a major obstacle in travel. Not every victim's experience ends as happily as Bentley's did.

Fortunately Vail Valley Medical Center is going to great lengths to provide a new service to support heart attack victims and cardiology patients right here in the Valley. A brand new state-of-the-art Cath Lab is scheduled to open in early 2015 and VVMC has brought Dr. Jerry Greenberg and his partner of 30 years Dr. Nelson Prager to Vail. Dr. Greenberg specializes in interventional cardiology and Dr. Prager's specialty areas include electrophysiology heart rhythm disturbances and coronary artery disease. Once open VVMC's new Cath Lab will start to offer services like angiograms stenting angioplasty and catheter ablation in addition to the pacemakers and Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) already offered.

“We're really excited about the Cath Lab” Dr. Greenberg says. “Soon when folks come into Vail Valley Medical Center for treatment they're going to be cared for right here. It's not an automatic trip to Denver.”

Ultimately this will lead to more happy endings to life-threatening incidents.

“I think I had about a three-hour survival window” Bentley says. “Transit time to Denver is in the best of circumstances about an hour. Having a Cath Lab in town would have greatly expanded my window of opportunity. Bringing this technology to Vail will be an enormous life saver.”

VVMC's Cath Lab will open in early 2015.

“We are pleased to offer our community and visitors the life-saving technology of a Cath Lab as well as the expert team of our Cardiology Institute” explains VVMC President and CEO Doris Kirchner. “As Vail's aging population requires greater healthcare support and expanded services the hospital is responding to accommodate this need.”

This year's Vail Valley Medical Center Family Dinner Dance on December 28 will raise funds to offset the cost of the Cath Lab. Attendees will bid on silent and live auction items and generous donors will raise their paddles for a special appeal to raise significant dollars for the Lab.

“For 34 years the Family Dinner Dance has funded invaluable technology and programs to enhance medical care in our community” says Kirchner. “Funds raised this year for the Cath Lab will truly save lives.”

For more information visit the VVMC Cardiology Institute or the Cardiac Catheterization Lab.

About Vail Valley Medical Center
From modest beginnings in 1965 VVMC has grown into one of the world's most advanced mountain hospitals providing Olympic-quality sports medicine leading evidence-based research modern cancer care and extensive cardiology services – all top-quality services with exceptional outcomes. An independent nonprofit medical center VVMC keeps hundreds of jobs and resources local better serving our community and visitors. Providing superior health services with compassion and exceptional outcomes VVMC offers expanding services low infection rates free community services and top-rated patient satisfaction scores. For more information please visit