On April 7, 2019, Ted Frank, MD, transplant cardiologist at the Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, covered more than 36 miles alongside some of his patients to raise funds to support lifesaving care for transplant patients and left ventricular assist device (LVAD) patients. Learn how Dr. Frank, surrounded by patients, friends, family and community members, came together for one united cause.

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Cardio & Community: Volunteers Come Together for Heart Health

On April 7, 2019, Ted Frank, MD, transplant cardiologist at the Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, covered more than 36 miles alongside some of his patients to raise funds to support lifesaving care for transplant patients and left ventricular assist device (LVAD) patients. Learn how Dr. Frank, surrounded by patients, friends, family and community members, came together for one united cause.

For Ted Frank, MD, transplant cardiologist at Atrium Health’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, running a marathon is a small feat compared to the challenges his patients face on a daily basis.

That’s the exact mindset that kept him going as he checked off more than 36 miles at the Atrium Health Foundation’s Heart Transplant Run, held at McAlpine Creek Park in Charlotte, North Carolina.

More than 20 teams joined Dr. Frank at this year’s event to participate as either a volunteer or a runner. Teams included former patients, nurses and other Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute teammates.

“When I consider what my patients and their families have gone through, I see my challenges as minor obstacles — and it keeps me going during my races,” says Dr. Frank.

Part of his inspiration is driven by seeing his patients outside of a hospital setting, with their families, thriving and doing well — and “seeing people being active is all the better.”

20 Years Plus and Still Running

This year’s charity run wasn’t Dr. Frank’s first race with the goal of raising funds for his patients. In addition to having more than 35 marathons and ultramarathons under his belt, Dr. Frank crossed off five marathons in five days in 2017 to raise more than $40,000 for patients receiving care at Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute.

This year, the collective effort of Dr. Frank, surrounded by patients, loved ones and supporters, raised over $19,000 — and counting.

According to Nurse and Transplant Coordinator, Susan Bernardo, RN, each dollar earned through the Atrium Health Foundation will help Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute transplant and LVAD patients pay for special healthcare-related needs such as medications, medical-related transport, temporary lodging and other expenses that are not otherwise covered by insurance.

“Even after our patients receive their heart transplants, they require lifelong treatment — care that can place huge financial strain on families with even the best of medical coverage,” says Susan. “Many of our patients are not only fighting to stay alive, but also to keep the lights on in their homes and put gas in their car — that’s the exact purpose of this event. We’ll do anything we can to relieve a little bit of that stress for them.”

Money raised during the Heart Transplant Run directly benefits transplant patients like 35-year-old Blanie Fullard, who received a heart transplant under the care of Dr. Frank in 2007.

A Miraculous Journey: Blanie’s Transplant Story

Blanie was just 22-years-old when he woke up on the morning of May 4, 2006 experiencing symptoms consistent with a stroke. Faced with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure during adolescence and a family history of fatal heart conditions, Blanie’s body had reached its breaking point. Shortly after his first stroke — and another on the operating table — his care team determined Blanie would need a new heart to save his life.

Physicians placed Blanie on the transplant list in January 2007, following months of rehabilitation and a stay in intensive care. In a matter of months, Blanie’s heart condition caused him to drop from 230 to 130 pounds.

“I was so afraid,” said Blanie. “I was getting sicker and losing weight. I just kept thinking, This could be it — I could die any day now.

Thanks to a coordinated team of surgeons, cardiologists, nurses, and a matching organ donor, Blanie received news of his match within 15 days of being put on the heart transplant waiting list.

“I cried, I was so ecstatic,” he said. “I was just so thankful, and I am still speechless when I think about it to this day.”

According to Blanie, who now spends his days as a husband, employee and busy father of two, his transplant was a second chance at life.

“I often ask God why I am here,” he says. “He could’ve taken me when I had my stroke, and many times after that, but he didn’t — God wanted me to be a father and a husband. He has given me these past 12 years for a reason.”

Where Care and Community Come Together

Dr. Frank echoes Blanie’s sentiment, stating that the run is an ode to the gift of life.

“During the Heart Transplant Run, we think about the celebration of life, as well as the sacrifice of the donor family,” he said. “The event is a chance for patients, loved ones and care teams to come together and express their gratitude for each other — it’s very fulfilling and empowering for everyone involved.”


For those feeling inspired to join the movement, visit the
Atrium Health Foundation website. To learn more about expert care for heart failure, visit Atrium Health’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute website.