Virtual critical care

News | 4 years ago

'I Made a Difference': Caretaker Gets a Voice in Updating Cardiac Unit

Ruth Gammon volunteers on Carolinas HealthCare System's Patient Family Advisory Council. After caring for her husband following a heart procedure, she became involved in renovating the cardiac unit where he was treated. Here, she shares her journey through the process.

By Ruth Gammon

Years ago during a routine physical, doctors discovered that my husband Chris had a heart murmur. We were referred to Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, where doctors diagnosed him with a bicuspid aortic valve. He was monitored for years, and eventually, he was told he’d need to have a valve replacement. In 2014, Chris had the surgery. We were both amazed with the care, professionalism and skill of all the people we encountered during that time. But there was one thing we found lacking: a modernized CVRU. The original CVRU (cardiovascular recovery unit), built in the 1980s, just didn’t equal the quality of the people working there. So Chris wrote a letter to the leadership of Carolinas HealthCare System, hoping that this could somehow be improved. Carolinas HealthCare System leaders took the feedback, and then something happened that we weren’t expecting: They asked if I could serve on the renovation team.

Making Changes

From 2015 to the fall of 2016, the design team planned various aspects of the unit renovation. The goals? A state-of-the-art facility for cardiovascular care offering improved privacy and a holistic approach to recovery care for patients, families and caregivers. My role was to advise on family and patient needs and on ways to foster an environment that promotes healing. It was my prayer that I could bring an outsider’s view and encourage the design team to think outside the box. The team planned changes based on research focusing on design trends, typical room formats, infection prevention and technology. Family members also needed a place to sit without being in the way, a way to charge a phone, and a private place to make a phone call and consult with a doctor. To address the privacy of patients and their family members, the team created actual rooms versus spaces divided by curtains that my husband had experienced. We also designed a place that provided staff with a 360-degree view of patients, with noise and light considerations. I thoroughly enjoyed the design process and was so impressed with the thoughtfulness and professionalism of the design team. As a caregiver to a patient and not an employee of Carolinas HealthCare System, this group made me feel right at home. They asked for my input and thoughts throughout the process, and I’m delighted with the new CVRU.

 Ruth speaks at the opening of the renovated CRVU.


Overall, I think the new CVRU is a huge improvement and will serve the doctors, staff and patients for years to come. The new unit has an improved design, with storage areas, new virtual technology, a more conspicuous hand washing station, a staff lounge and natural light. My hope is that as technology evolves and great ideas are discovered, the CVRU will continue to improve and evolve. The Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute team does a remarkable job, and now the facility is on par with the incredible talent. The care team gave our family a gift: a 100 percent healed husband. It’s the least we can do to become advocates and to help give patients and staff the facility they deserve.

Are you interested in joining Carolinas HealthCare System's Patient Family Advisory Council? Fill out an application.