GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - It's no secret that heart disease can happen at any age. Five years ago, Diana Mathis realized she was no exception when she discovered a small pain in her left elbow.
"I went to the doctor and after lots of testing and stuff, I had to have surgery at the age of 59," said Mathis.
Today, she calls herself a survivor. She's proud to be a part of St. Mary's ground breaking event for their new Heart and Vascular Center.
"The new cardiovascular and heath center means everything to this community," said Mathis.
Prior to this center, patients would have to travel outside of Western Colorado to recieve this type of treatment.
"Right now those patients have to go to Denver for that care. We wanted them to be able to get their care at the right place close to home," said Lydia Jumonville, Interim CEO for SCL Health.
Mathis says she was lucky to be able to have her surgery right at home.
"My procedure was done right here at St. Mary's. They took excellent care of me," said Mathis.
However, she knows this isn't the case for everyone.
"I would not have been happy if I had to travel for cardiac care. The heart of the problem is the heart of the person. They need to be where they can be close to home," said Mathis.
SCL officials know that this wish remains true for most patients.
"People want to recieve this kind of care close to home. They want to be near their families and friends and not have to travel hours when they are ill," said Jumonville.
Although the center will not be fully operational until 2019,
"It's going to take a little bit of time, but it's going to be so worth it," said Mathis.
As part of the expansion, St. Mary's expects to hire an additional 8-10 specialized staff members. The project is expected to take about 18 months, and will be fully operational in January of 2019.