CTRU and OR5 staff, March 1989
March 15, 2014 will mark 25 years since the first cardiac surgical procedure at Rex Hospital was performed. After months of preparation and planning by physicians, nurses, administrators, and a host of other disciplines, our first patient left OR5 after a “rolling call” to the new Cardiothoracic Recovery Unit (CTRU) on March 15, 1989.
Many things have changed at Rex since that day, including Rex becoming a part of the UNC Health Care system, CTRU’s name (now the CTICU) the length of time our heart patients are hospitalized, the variety of procedures performed, and most of the faces associated with the program. However, there are a few Rex co-workers who were part of that auspicious day, that are still working in their heart-related service areas at Rex.
As the first Clinical Nurse Specialist hired at Rex, and the person charged with educating and orienting all CTRU and 4W nurses, I was nervous on 3/15/89, hoping for a smooth start to our program, and a successful outcome for our patient.
Nurses tending to the first heart patient, March 1989
Our first patient did extremely well, but our CNO at the time, Patti Fralix, wanted to make sure he continued to do well post-discharge and asked me to make a “home visit” to him. I met him at his bait and tackle shop in Fuquay-Varina, where I was pleased to see he was progressing satisfactorily. I’m sure such a visit by a non home-health nurse would never be allowable in this day and age!
My office was in the current Room 8 in CTRU, so I was close at hand for support of the staff. I slept in CTRU several nights in the first couple years of our program. The Clinical Manager Cheryl Batchelor and I were not both allowed to be on vacation at the same time during the first year. I worked with the cardiac surgery program for 11 years, and then left Rex.
Doctors operate on the first heart patient, March 1989
Two years ago I had the opportunity to again work with the cardiothoracic surgeons and staff. One of my first tasks was helping our physicians and support staff to get our TAVR program up and running. It was a “mini” revisit to the excitement of 1989! Our heart program has outdone every expectation I ever had for it. The original open heart OR staff called our group “pioneers.” We are proud to have cleared a path for others to follow.
For those of us that were a part of the events that day, it is gratifying to see the growth of our heart services and cardiac surgery program, and there is much anticipation for our new North Carolina Heart and Vascular Hospital scheduled to open its doors by the end of 2016. We never would have imagined such a culmination to our work back in 1989. We are so proud of our program’s history, and our contributions to the excellent care provided to cardiac surgery patients at Rex.
RNs Patricia Sloan, Betsy Kelly, and Vickie Alston, some of the original nurses still at Rex since the first heart surgery, March 2014