tween the two hospitals.

"If a paramedic responding to a 911 call contacts us," Dr. Koobatian said, "and says, `Yes, this is a (serious) heart attack' after doing an EKG and heart tracing on the patient, the doctor here will tell him to bypass New Milford and got straight to Danbury Hospital.' "

"We call Danbury and they activate the cath lab to have it up and running and ready for the patient as soon as that patient arrives," he explained.

Cardiac care available in New Milford is top notch, said Dr. Michael Levine, division director of cardiology.

"We handle people with congestive heart failure, chest pain, symptoms that do not appear to be acute heart attacks," Dr. Levine explained.

"We handle a lot of arrhythmias, insert pacemakers and treat people with rapid heartbeat and unclear sources of fainting," he said.

Being able to transfer a patient requiring open heart surgery to Danbury Hospital removes the issue of inclement weather delaying LifeStar arrival or takeoff to Hartford, Dr. Levine noted.

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For John Belfontane, 54, being able to do his cardiac rehabilitation at New Milford Hospital has eliminated the stress of driving from his home in Gaylordsville to Danbury Hospital. Mr. Belfontane suffered a heart attack while at work in Bethel and was rushed to Danbury Hospital. Five days later, he underwent a quadruple bypass, performed by surgeon Dr. Eugene Fernandez. "The doctors and staff at Danbury Hospital were great," Mr. Belfontane said, "and the nurses here at New Milford's rehab have helped me lose some of the fear I had starting physical activity again." "They've taken me slowly to increasing my activity and strengthening my endurance," he said. R.N. Nancy Demchuk, the hospital's cardiac rehabilitation director, answers questions Mr. Belfontane has about his medications, diet and how the heart functions, he said. Feeling knowledgeable about his condition has helped empower him, Mr. Belfontane said, reducing stress and facilitating his recovery.