Gerri Ashe speaks during the Pause to Give Life event at Vidant Medical Center.

On April 7, Vidant Medical Center (VMC) hosted its Donate Life event, Pause to Give Life, to recognize organ donors and their families. Vidant team members, including the donor resource team and transplant team, were among those in attendance.

During the ceremony, the Donate Life flag was raised on the VMC flagpole at 10:08 a.m., a time symbolic of the ratio of one donor being able to save up to eight lives. Following the raising of the flag, a 30-second moment of silence was observed to honor donors and their families and recognize the more than 3,000 patients waiting for a life-saving transplant in North Carolina.

“It was a record year for organ donors at Vidant. We had 55 donors in 2020 that resulted in saving or enhancing 179 lives by those donations,” said Van Smith, VMC executive vice president of operations. “This is a celebration of the work of Vidant and Carolina Donor Services in partnership to support the community and improve the quality of life across eastern North Carolina.”

Carolina Donor Services President and CEO Danielle Niedfeldt recognized VMC for the record year of organ donations with an Outstanding Service Award during the event. Niedfeldt said in addition to a record year for transplantations at VMC, the hospital performed at a remarkable level in its own right and as compared to others within the Carolina Donor Services area.

Gerri Ashe speaks during the Pause to Give Life event at Vidant Medical Center.Among the speakers at the event was Gerri Ashe, a community health worker at Vidant Health. She shared her story as a family donor – or someone whose loved ones have donated organs after they have passed.

Ashe began working at Vidant in February of 2008. In November of that same year, her oldest brother passed away from a stroke at just 43 years old. She recalled that when she was getting her license her dad told her to sign up as an organ donor and her siblings did the same. After his passing, they learned he would be able to donate three organs – his heart and his corneas.

“At that time, I decided to turn what seemed to be a really difficult situation into a positive moment of being able to share my story,” Ashe said. “It also made me want to get more involved and become more educated so I could help families understand the process.”

Ashe said she completed her studies in health education and promotion this past February.

As a community health worker, Ashe has many responsibilities in educating eastern North Carolina and connecting people to services or resources that they need to be healthy.

She said she also tries to raise awareness for the need of organ donation and stresses the importance of healthy living for anyone who may be interested in being an organ donor.

“No matter what decision a family makes, if I can just help them during that time – even as difficult as it is – I know I’ve done my job as a family donor,” Ashe said. “That’s how I honor my brother’s memory is by spreading the word and helping others realize how important it is to donate.”

If you’d like to learn more about being an organ donor or register as an organ donor, visit the Carolina Donor Services website. Learn more about Vidant’s transplant services.

Awards | Featured | Health News

COVID-19 vaccines are prepared in a clinic

The new location will initially be open Monday-Friday and can accommodate up to 350 vaccine appointments per day. Vidant may adjust days and hours of operations for the clinic based on demand. Appointments are required and are already available at VidantHealth.com/Vaccinate or by calling 252-847-8000.

The Convention Center clinic will pause operations from April 7-12 due to an event hosted at the Convention Center. The Convention Center clinic will re-open April 13 to complete already-scheduled second doses only and will permanently close after all scheduled second doses are complete.

Effective April 8 and until further notice, all new doses in Greenville will be given at the Vidant Greenville Vaccine Clinic on Arlington Boulevard.

Although the vaccine offers great hope, Vidant encourages everyone to do their part to keep communities in the region safe from COVID-19: wear a mask, social distance and wash hands. Those who receive the vaccine should still practice these important safety measures.

Visit VidantHealth.com/Vaccinate for more information.

Covid-19 | Health News

“I’ve never had an opportunity to do anything so important,” said Karen Harris, a pharmacy technician who has been on the job for more than 20 years. But what’s been required for COVID-19 is a first.

“This is our contribution to the public,” said Harris, who is part of a system-wide team helping prep vaccines at the Vidant / Pitt County Large-Scale Vaccine Clinic at the Greenville Convention Center.

“It’s kind of overwhelming to even think about being involved. And I’m grateful, so grateful that I can be a part of it – because this is a part of history,” she said.

The vaccines used at the convention center get their start at a pharmacy at Vidant Medical Center (VMC) each morning. An early start — and a lot of planning and coordination — ensures vaccines arrive when and where they are needed across eastern North Carolina.

“We carry a tray of vaccines out, with 20, 30, 40 doses over to our vaccination area,” said Andy Grimone, assistant director of pharmacy at VMC. “The doses are all prepared and no one really knows how they got to that point.”

What’s not a mystery — the significance of their role and the doses of hope they deliver.

“The experts and the science behind it is saying the vaccine is working,” said Grimone. “So to know that what we’re doing here is making an impact in eastern North Carolina, is pretty awesome. And we couldn’t do it without this team.”

Harris agrees. “Everybody here is dedicated to what we’re doing. We all want to stop COVID-19 and the best way to do that is to vaccinate.”

For additional information on vaccine appointment availability and how to register for your dose of hope, please visit www.VidantHealth.com/Vaccinate.

Covid-19 | Health News

Dr. Drew Honaker poses for a photo

Recently, the guidelines for when someone should begin having screenings for colorectal cancer have been updated, and it is now recommended people at average risk for colorectal cancer begin screenings at age 45. The American Cancer Society lowered the age to start screening from 50 because studies show rates of colorectal cancer among people younger than 50 are on the rise and expected to almost double by 2030. Screenings starting at age 45 could help save more lives.

For people of average risk and no family history of colorectal cancer, the first screenings establish a baseline and depending upon the results, will determine the recommended time for the next screening. Regular screenings should continue for people who are in good health through the age of 75.

For people at higher risk for colorectal cancer, there may be reason to start screening before age 45. They may also need to be screened more often or get specific tests. Dr. Drew Honaker, colorectal surgeon & clinical assistant professor, Brody School of Medicine, ECU/Vidant Health, said, “Factors that put those with higher risk include having a strong family history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps. Another factor of family history that should be taken into consideration is the presence of a hereditary syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome.”

It is recommended that people ages 76 through 85 should decide with their health care provider whether to continue to get screened. Factors that should be considered include their personal preferences, prior screening results, overall health and life expectancy. People beyond the age of 85 should no longer be screened for colorectal cancer.

Someone’s personal history may determine an earlier need for colorectal cancer screening. If a person has inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, if certain types of polyps are present or if there is a history of radiation to the abdomen or pelvis to treat a prior cancer, these conditions will put someone at higher risk.

People who think or know they are at higher risk for colorectal cancer should talk to their health care provider, who can help choose the best screening option and schedule. There are several test options for colorectal cancer which include stool-based screenings and visual exams. Though an invasive procedure, a colonoscopy is the most thorough procedure for preventing colorectal cancer.

In terms of proactive, preventative practices, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk for colorectal cancer. It’s important to maintain a healthy diet that is low in red and processed meats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole-grain fiber. A balance between a healthy diet and lifestyle includes:

  • a diet low in red and processed meats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole-grain fiber
  • physical activity to help maintain a healthy body weight
  • limiting alcohol and tobacco use. Quitting smoking should be a top priority for helping prevent colon cancer and if alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation

Even if you take all of these steps to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, you cannot eliminate the risk entirely. That’s why everyone 45 or older should talk to their medical provider, choose a screening test, and get screened routinely.

For more information about the risks, prevention and screening resources for colorectal cancer, or if you do not have a primary care provider, please contact the Prevention Clinic at Vidant Cancer Care (252) 816-RISK (7475).

Cancer | Health News

Media gathers during Governor Roy Cooper's visit to Greenville

The Vidant / Pitt County Large-Scale Vaccine Clinic at the Greenville Convention Center has helped thousands of people get their dose of hope in eastern North Carolina and beyond.

On March 19, the site served as a backdrop for a visit from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and other state and local officials.

“We see the data of where these vaccinations are going,” said Cooper. “Therefore, we know what we need to do and we know who is being left out.”

“We’re not done,” said Dr. Michael Waldrum, CEO of Vidant Health. “The game is still being played and we have to play all 60 minutes of this football game, and keep our communities safe.”

The site itself has been a monumental undertaking in support of the communities Vidant serves.

With support from team members and volunteers – to date, more than 70,000 vaccinations have been administered here and at other vaccination sites across the region.

“It’s been a tragic and a trying time,” said Dr. John Silvernail, director of the Pitt County Health Department. “It’s also been a time of great cooperation and a chance to learn from one another.”

While much great work has been done, state and local leaders remain focused on the path ahead.

“As Dr. Waldrum and Dr. Silvernail also said, we cannot spike the football too early,” said Cooper. “We know these variants are out there. We’ve seen them flare up in other countries, in other states. We don’t want that to happen in North Carolina.”

For the latest information on vaccine availability and eligibility, please visit VidantHealth.com/vaccinate.

Covid-19 | Featured | Health News

Volunteers Vivie and Ron Baseford sit together at Vidant Medical CenterRonald and Vivie Baseford’s hearts of service led them to each other.

Ron began volunteering at Vidant Medical Center (VMC) around January of 2019 and has worked as a patient escort since. Vivie stopped working about two years ago and began volunteering at VMC in October of 2019. It didn’t take long for Vivie to catch Ron’s eye.

“About a week or two after I started, we passed each other in the hall,” Vivie said.

“We were wheeling patients,” Ron said. “Vivie and I passed each other in the corridors a couple of times and smiled and I said ‘Oh boy. I wish everyone had a smile like yours.’ And we just took it from there.”

There were lunches in the cafeteria at VMC before things became a little more formal. Dinners at Vivie’s house and date nights around town became the norm for them. They travel together, love watching movies and both find a piece of joy in spending time serving others.

When the pandemic began to intensify, the volunteering at VMC was halted but Ron and Vivie grew closer together. They decided to move in together and were married on July 7, 2020.

“We’ve been happy ever since,” Ron said. “We have the same interests. We love to travel, we love to go places in the car and visit places around here. We like to go up in the mountains and hike and see some of the waterfalls in that area.”

The time away from volunteering left some quality honeymoon time for the two, and they kept busy while away from helping patients, families and team members at VMC. They returned to volunteering about eight weeks ago, both on Monday mornings but in different areas of the hospital.

Vivie volunteers in the Eddie & Allison Jo Smith Tower and is happy to be back helping serve her community. Her love for the medical field goes back to her schooling days. While her first husband attended medical school, she sat in on classes with him and later worked with the Red Cross for a number of years.

“I always had an interest in that type of thing,” Vivie said. “When my first husband was stationed in Germany, I worked for the Red Cross and I volunteered. When he went into Rocky Mount to start his practice, I worked at the Red Cross also. I’ve been doing stuff like this practically all my life.”

She said she has enjoys interacting with patients and Vidant team members and the opportunity to be involved in health care again.

“When I was working, I worked as a teller at a bank, so I love people,” she said. “Just to be with people and help them, it makes me feel so good. Anything I can do for them, anywhere I can take them is just great. It’s very fulfilling to me.”

Ron, known as Mr. Ron around VMC, said he loves to meet new people and his role as a patient escort gives him the chance to talk to many different people each Monday.

“I like to talk to people,” he said. “While we’re walking, most of them are tense because they don’t know what they’re going to do and I certainly can’t help them with that but I talk to them about the weather and where they’re from and so forth and so on. We both very much look forward to going in on Mondays.”

Another benefit, Ron said, is the exercise he gets while escorting patients during his four-hour volunteering shifts. He said the exercise app he uses says he averages between five and six miles most Mondays while walking with patients and families through the hospital.

“It always pleases me because, all the people there, not only the patients but relatives that go with them sometimes, are all so very appreciative,” he said. “That’s always what makes it worth walking that six miles.”

“The people that work at the hospital are so appreciative of us, too, which really makes a difference,” Vivie added. “They make us feel like part of the team and they’re such nice people.”

If you would like to join Ron, Vivie and the other amazing volunteers at Vidant Health, visit VidantHealth.com/Volunteers/.

Featured | Health News

An EVS team member cleans a hospital bed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Feb. 24, the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU), who have seen COVID-19 patients since the pandemic began, shared their journey on Hometown Healing. Myra Thompson, the nurse manager of the MICU at VMC, said it is a part of daily life for those on her unit.

“We can’t get away from it,” she said. “It doesn’t go away. It is in my head all the time, whether I’m here or not.”

Thompson said it has been difficult to be away from family, friends and loved ones during the pandemic, but it is necessary to keep them safe. She said she does not want to be the one who could possibly spread the virus to a loved one because she works with so many infected patients.

She said some days don’t even feel real when working on the unit with all she sees. But she knows there is work that needs to be done and people who need help.

“We have families too and we have things we are worried about at home and all kinds of other things and we come here,” Thompson said, “we are expected to put that aside and do what we do. It’s more than being a hero for working in this unit.”

For Thompson, having a team to go through the daily challenges with makes things better. The team has also benefited from a tranquility room on the unit, where they can take a break away from the unit and have a moment to breathe.

Another source of inspiration and hope for brighter days ahead, comes from the community.

“Just love us. Motivate us. It’s the hardest work that we’ve ever done, and we do it well,” she said. “Just don’t give up on us. Please wear your mask, please wash your hands. Please stay home unless you have to be out. Just keep loving and supporting us.”

Behind the teams directly working with patients to keep everyone safe during the pandemic is the Environmental Services Team (EVS). This group of team members was recognized on Feb. 23 for their efforts throughout the pandemic.

Natashia Scott, the EVS manager at VMC, along with about 265 other team members, work behind the scenes every day to ensure doctors, nurses, patients, visitors and everyone who enters the hospital doors are as protected as possible from the virus.

It is not a job without risks.

“We disinfect and clean patient areas in the hospital to make sure it is clean and conducive for our patients,” Scott said. “We have to touch every surface, like walls, and we have to take the curtains down. We’re touching every high-touch surface like light handles and door handles.”

COVID-19 fundamentally changed how the team had to do their jobs. She said what used to be a 30-minute job can now take an hour.

The pandemic also brought more technology to the team.

“We introduced solaris, which is a UV disinfect tool. It ensures all of the surfaces that we might not get are penetrated, sanitized and disinfected,” Scott said.

She said she knows it is a scary thing, to go into a room and clean room that a COVID-19-positive patient has been in. But with a community and hospital relying on them, they step up to get the job done.

Scott said as a manager, it is important that she stands with her team and makes them feel comfortable during challenging times. Her team is working together to help a community.

“Our housekeepers are the real heroes. None of this would be possible without them,” Scott said.

Watch and read more on the MICU team’s story and EVS team’s story.

Covid-19 | Health News

A man exercises at the Wellness Center at Vidant Beaufort

There are key factors that impact heart health that everyone needs to be aware of to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. These include monitoring blood pressure, knowing your cholesterol and getting enough exercise.

High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, occurs when the pressure of blood flowing through your blood vessels is consistently too high. According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure and many do not even know it.

Dr. Blase A. Carabello, chief of cardiology, Brody School of Medicine at ECU and Vidant Medical Center, said, “High blood pressure is often a symptomless ‘silent killer’ because there are often no noticeable symptoms that accompany this condition. The best way to know if your blood pressure is in a healthy range is to get your blood pressure checked and monitor your blood pressure numbers regularly.”

Cholesterol levels can play a key role in heart health. It comes from two sources: the liver, which makes all the cholesterol you need, and the rest comes from foods from animals. Cholesterol circulates in the blood and as the amount of it increases in your blood, so too does the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke. When it comes to cholesterol, remember to check, change and control.

Another key factor influencing heart health is atrial fibrillation or “afib,” a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke and heart failure and a shortened life span. Typically, people who have one or more conditions including high blood pressure, sleep apnea, underlying heart disease, and other chronic conditions including thyroid problems, diabetes and asthma may be at risk for atrial fibrillation. However, the single most important modifiable risk factor for afib is obesity.

The treatment goals of atrial fibrillation begin with diagnosis through in-depth examination from a physician. Based upon the diagnosis, providers may offer a variety of options including medication that usually entails the use of blood thinners, nonsurgical procedures, including electrical cardioversion to reset the heart to a normal rhythm and procedures that can block the area of the heart where blood clots form if patients are unable to take blood thinners.

“Being proactive about your heart health is the best way to be aware of potential problems,” said Dr. Carabello. “Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active can make a positive impact on blood pressure, cholesterol and atrial fibrillation, which will help maintain good heart health. Also, seeing your provider for screenings and check-ups is key to preventing problems before they arise.”

Even though the pandemic continues to make an impact on daily life in eastern North Carolina, Dr. Carabello encourages community members to continue to seek medical attention and to be knowledgeable about the procedures in place to make patients as safe as possible.

He said, “Heart disease did not take a break during the pandemic and any negative heart condition needs to be addressed in its earliest stages when the widest variety of treatments are available.”

For those who have experienced a major cardiac event, Vidant offers a Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program to help create a path forward. A team of respiratory therapists, registered nurses, exercise professionals, dietitians and a medical director guide patients through a program focused on exercise, nutrition and behavior modification to prepare and equip those in the program to continue physical activity and healthy lifestyle changes.

For more information about cardiovascular resources at Vidant Health, including treatments, screenings and technologies, visit VidantHealth.com/Heart-Vascular.

Health News | Heart and Vascular

Musicians play at the Vidant/Pitt Large-Scale Vaccine Clinic at the Greenville Convention Center.

“Music therapy is not a new science,” said Vidant Chief Experience Officer Dr. Julie Kennedy Oehlert. “We know that music can calm anxieties and ease pain. Music from internationally renowned musicians provides a soothing experience for community members in the observation area after they receive their dose of hope.”

Four Seasons Artistic Director Ara Gregorian values the partnership they have built with Vidant. “Four Seasons is committed to bringing great music and musicians to as many people as possible, and I can think of no better way to do this during the pandemic than bringing musicians from around the world to regularly perform at the Large-Scale Vaccine Clinic,” Gregorian said.

“The beautiful, healing music gratefully provided by Four Seasons will forever be a part of the memories of those that receive their vaccine,” Dr. Oehlert said. Vidant and Four Seasons have partnered for years to bring musical experiences to patients at Vidant Medical Center via live performances and video recordings featuring acclaimed Four Seasons musicians.

Dr. Oehlert said, “This collaboration is yet another demonstration of how our community comes together to support each other during this pandemic and other times of need.”

Vidant has vaccinated over 10,000 people thus far. For more information about vaccination appointments, visit www.Vidanthealth.com/vaccinate or sign up for email updates on Vidant’s vaccine efforts as new information becomes available.

Covid-19 | Health News