When it comes to a heart attack or other cardiac event, “time is muscle.”

And the proximity of care is key.

So explained Nona Kupfer during a guided tour of the $60 million Knapp Cardiac Care Center that’s now under construction at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital in East Patchogue.

“[The heart] doesn’t rejuvenate itself,” said Kupfer, the hospital’s senior director of operations, noting the closest other two hospitals are about 15 miles away. “If the muscle starts to die, the more time you miss is crucial.

“There are people who might survive [a long wait], but they would have decreased cardiac function.”

The hospital instituted a fully functional interventional care program two years ago this December, which allows Brookhaven Memorial to administer lifesaving care to cardiac patients. The unit operates out of the hospital’s current infrastructure.

Once operational, the new, 60,000-square-foot cardiac center, which is connected to the main building, will allow Brookhaven Memorial to greatly expand upon those services.

All those efforts got a boost Wednesday in the form of $57,000 donated by the Rotary Club of Patchogue. That chunk of money was raised at the club’s 19th Annual Steak & Cigar Dinner, which attracted about 1,000 people to PeraBell Food Bar and Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts in June.

Rotary president Brian Kearns said it was by far the most successful dinner yet.

“Every year, we’re thinking, how can we make it better?” he said.

Asked why the hospital’s project was chosen for the donation, Dave Knapp, a Rotary member who co-chaired the club’s fundraiser, answered simply.

“This is going to save lives, with the cutting down of time it takes to get a patient from where they are, to where they’ll be receiving care,” said Knapp, also the president of the Island Outreach Foundation philanthropic group, which helped fund the dinner.

The Rotarians and members of the media were invited Wednesday to tour the three-story building, which is still very much a work in progress.

Because it’s not completed, the Rotarians were encouraged to “use their imaginations.”

The Knapp Cardiac Care Center, which is being built in part using a generous donation from the Knapp-Swezey Foundation, is expected to open in September 2016, hospital officials said.


Top photo: Steve Barbino, Brookhaven Memorial Hospital’s special assistant to the president for construction, inside the Knapp Center’s future main lobby. More photos below. (Michael White)