Dubuque’s Mercy Medical Center is opening a seven-million dollar cardiac center this week, designed to give eastern Iowans access to new technology and treatment options. For starters, the facility’s entrance looks more like a fancy hotel than a hospital.

Cardiology Supervisor Steve Heiberger says that was intentional. Heiberger says “It’s a very high-anxiety time when they come to a cardiology department, so, we try to make that visit as smooth and calming as we can.” When patients walk on the treadmill, they look at a full-length projection of a nature scene on the wall. When someone’s having a procedure done in one room, they can look up and see a detailed picture of the blue sky, trees and puffy white clouds — instead of ceiling tiles.

Heiberger says it’s important to have this sort of facility close to population centers. He says “Every second counts when you’re talking about a heart attack. You want to get that vessel opened up as soon as possible to reduce the chance that damage might be done.” New computers help Dubuque doctors get X-ray results immediately, without waiting for film to be developed. Heiberger says that saves time and lives.

Dubuque-area resident Sharon Ruden nearly lost her husband to a heart attack two years ago. Sharon Ruden says “Without this place, I probably wouldn’t have a husband right now. Seconds count. It’s just so important.” Jack Ruden says Mercy Medical Center helped save his life after the attack. He says he still worries about his health, but he feels safer now that the new facility is open.

Jack Ruden says “I’m always going to have heart problems. This is top-notch, and I’m really glad to have it.” The center’s first patients are starting to check in this week. Doctors say heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S.