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News, Women's Health, Men's Health | 4 years ago

Stories That Inspire Storytellers

Inspiring stories are what drive us here at Carolinas HealthCare System. As we start a new year, our team looked back on some of our favorite inspirational stories of 2017. 

Each and every day, Carolinas HealthCare System is privileged to bring our readers stories of health, hope and healing – for all. There was no shortage of these amazing stories in 2017. We'd like to share with you our most inspiring stories that spanned decades, crossed borders and brought families, friends, and even strangers together in an unforgettable bond.

Former Carolina Panthers Player Vows to Support Lung Cancer Survivors
From our team member, Savannah: “Having dealt with the emotional experience of losing a loved one to lung cancer, I was incredibly inspired by the spirit and hope of these five women as they battle lung cancer. Their positive attitudes and determination to spread awareness not only inspired me, but caught the eye of former Panther and Charlottean Chris Draft who made the last-minute trip to Levine Cancer Institute to meet the women and join the team for a special Lung Cancer Awareness Month event. He, too, knows the emotional pain of this disease all too well as his wife lost her battle against lung cancer in 2011. Yet, his energy and passion for hope, coupled with the support and compassion from the LCI team, could be felt throughout the room. This story truly shows what an incredible, supportive care team and community we have here at CHS and throughout the Charlotte area.”

‘A Piece of Their Heart’ Brings Healing for Families
From our team member, Jolie: “I help tell stories about our nurses. They often have a hard time identifying stories to share with me because the extraordinary things they do are normal occurrences to them. It’s these small moments, though, that I find most touching, and one story we were able to tell was about a nurse who implemented a ‘Heartbeat in a Bottle’ program for families whose loved ones pass away on her unit. It’s these small things that help bring healing and hope, even during sad times.”

From our team member, Lea: “This story gives a whole new meaning to “a gift from the heart.” Nurses in the surgical trauma ICU at Carolinas Medical Center have taken it upon themselves to offer a gift of healing to families grieving the loss of a loved one. After a patient passes, its often hard to describe the feelings of those left behind; but this printout of a patient’s last heartbeat offers a sense of comfort and closure that words cannot. Not only does this story demonstrate the compassion and world class care our teammates practice, but it also brings happiness to a family during a time they need it most. I think this gift specifically is such a beautiful symbol of hope in that it gives the idea that the heart of a loved one is still beating.”

From our team member, Melanie: “The ‘Heartbeat in a Bottle’ really resonated with me when I first heard about it. Surgical trauma ICU nurse Charis Mitchell, RN, struggled to find a way to help families cope after a loved one passed away. She researched and discovered the ‘Heartbeat in a Bottle’ idea instituted by another hospital. It’s the last heartbeat of a patient, or EKG, that is put inside a keepsake medicine bottle. I had the honor of interviewing one of the families who received one. Daniel Haulk wears his wife’s heartbeat around his neck every day. It was emotional talking with him, but you could also see how that tiny gesture brought healing to him and his family. This story just resonated with so many people, including myself. Charis and the Haulk family have a special place in my heart.”

Watch the video
Read the story

Open-Heart Surgery During a C-Section Saves Both Mom and Baby
From our team member, Carly: “When Danielle, 31 and pregnant, arrived at Carolinas HealthCare System Union’s emergency department in February, she was close to losing her own life – and never getting the chance to meet her unborn child. But an incredible team transferred Danielle to Carolinas Medical Center performed a successful dual heart surgery and caesarean section delivery of her baby. Months later, Danielle had the chance to hold her baby for the first time. She shared an emotional, once-in-a-lifetime moment with us. Watching her hold her son with her care team by her side was powerful. Witnessing our healers cheer her on and motivate her during her most difficult days was inspiring. This coordination of care truly shows how involved our doctors, nurses and many others are in going above and beyond providing care.” 

Read national and international coverage on ABC News, The Daily Mail, FOX News Health and Yahoo! News Australia

NFL great and wife deal with devastating diagnosis
From our team member, Claire: “My favorite stories to tell are the ones that transform me as a person and completely change my outlook on life. When NFL coaching legend Marty Schottenheimer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, his family showered him with more care and support than ever before. His wife, Pat, is his No. 1 fan and remains in love and fully committed to him. When Marty interacts with his children and grandchildren, you forget that he was one of the most revered coaches of his time who is now struggling to remember who he is. Marty and his family don’t let Alzheimer’s disease define them. They are raising awareness to support funding for research and ultimately, a cure, for this devastating disease. They carry themselves with grace, and meeting them has enhanced the way I value and treat my own family.”

Watch the short documentary “Analyzing Alzheimer’s”

Dean’s Back on the Road Again
From our team member, Jerrika: “When you’re inspired by someone, how would you describe them? Courageous? Passionate? Strong? Selfless? Dean Otto is all of these and much more. He was hit by a truck while riding his bike in September of 2016. Following that accident his medical journey from paralysis to walking and then running again is anything but ordinary. However, Dean’s first two steps just days after surgery weren’t what inspired me. It was his personal decision to immediately forgive the man who hit him and then befriend him. On the one-year anniversary of the accident, Dean ran a half marathon alongside his neurosurgeon and the man who hit him. There was no way this wasn’t going to be a great story to tell. What made it incredible was the lesson we all learned from Dean – one of forgiveness and living every day to the fullest.”

Read Dean’s story and watch the trio’s appearances on The Ellen Show and NBC’s TODAY show.

Rare Heart Transplant Surgery Gives Newborn a Second Chance at Life
From our team member, Amanda: “Ella Kate was born a fighter. She couldn’t breathe for the first eight minutes of her life, and was airlifted to Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Children’s Hospital. Hours later, her parents learned tumors were taking up 80 percent of their daughter's tiny, walnut-sized heart. In the months that followed, doctors agreed a heart transplant was the little girl’s only hope of survival. In the US, about 450 pediatric heart transplants take place each year and only 10 percent of children two and younger can accept organs from all blood types. Ella Kate was fortunate to be among that 10 percent. Her heart transplant was the first in Charlotte with a mismatched blood type, opening the door for more transplants for waiting patients. Hearing Ella Kate's parents share how her doctor is committed to helping them navigate this journey as she grows up is the perfect illustration of how Carolinas HealthCare System improves health, elevates hope, and advances healing – for all.”

30 Years Later, This Heart Transplant Patient Is Still Thriving
From our team member, Andrew: “I love this story for many reasons. First, the record for longest living heart transplant is 33 years -- James is at 30 years. Second, you always hear about the “firsts” in healthcare. But for a patient that receives a heart transplant and lives an additional 30 years, there’s a lot of caring, monitoring, and support along the way spanning those three decades. That makes me feel good. I put my friends and family in the picture when I think about this story. It’s not just that CHS could save their life with a transplant, but it’s all the excellent work and care that’s done afterward that would ensure I get to spend as much time as possible with them. It represents what healthcare should be always be about – the care and support of the patient.”

Five Cancer Relapses Can't Stop One Remarkable Girl
From our team member, Sonya: “Nine-year-old Mya McKenzie Nguyen hasn’t just beat cancer once. Or twice. Or three times. She’s beat it six times, and throughout it all, she’s maintained a positive outlook and a ‘special grace,’ as her dad calls it. Mya is an amazing example of how each of us can react when things go badly in life, and most importantly, she reminds us why we should never lose hope. Her incredible attitude is well beyond her years – and how moving that her dad felt so motivated by his daughter’s experience, he chose to take a job with Carolinas HealthCare System to give back to the system that’s fighting to keep his daughter cancer-free.”

Lawyer Eddie Poe Faces His Toughest Case: Cancer
From our team member, Lovemore: “The story featuring lawyer Eddie Poe’s fight with chronic lymphocytic leukemia is my favorite 2017 story that inspires me. I was touched by the fact that, despite the cancer diagnosis, Poe continues to be upbeat. He understands he will live with the cancer for life, but that doesn’t deter him from looking ahead. He takes comfort in knowing that he has a good medical team at Levine Cancer Institute to take care of him. I am inspired by Poe’s story because it reminds me of what my father had to go through when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001. His positive outlook on life continued until he passed away in 2002. When I am faced with challenges in life, I always remember that there are people like Poe who have to live with cancer for the rest of their lives, but they are still optimistic.”

Carolinas HealthCare System Touches Down in Guatemala

From our team member, Katie: “I think one of the most inspirational stories this year was in the spring, all the stories around our NICU work in Guatemala. I think some of the stats are incredible. They went from having space for eight pediatric patients to 18 in the PICU and from seven neonatal patients to 18 in the NICU. Before this donation, many babies died because they simply didn’t have an ICU bed or the proper equipment to help them, and that just kills me to imagine.”

Read more about the launch of Central America’s largest neonatal, pediatric intensive care unit and its impact on the nation.
Veteran Overcomes Combat Injury to Climb Tallest Mountains
From our team member, Margaret: “There are several components within this article that I find truly inspiring. First is Dr. Hsu’s willingness to go above and beyond for patients. Even though he is an orthopedic surgeon, he ensures that his patients get the rehabilitation they need through his Return to Performance Pathway program. I am additionally inspired by Ben Breckheimer’s determination to not let his injury slow him down in life. There are plenty of people who would live life on the safe side following an injury like Ben’s, but I admire the fact he turned nearly losing a limb into an opportunity to do something as challenging as climbing the seven tallest summits in the world.”

Boy with Small Stature, Big Personality Helps Raise Awareness for Rare Disease Day
From our team member, Seth: “How could you not smile when you read the story about Landen Johnson and see him shooting hoops in his room. Landen is one of just a handful of children diagnosed with primordial dwarfism in the world. He’s about 3 feet tall and won’t grow to be much bigger. But his larger-than-life personality and positive outlook on life is infectious to anyone that meets him. His mother said his purpose in life is to bring joy to others, and he does that in boatloads. Landen was featured on local television and even appeared in He continues to face the challenges associated with his condition but is fighting the battle with a heart of a lion! Make sure to keep up with Landen’s story on his Facebook page.”