From Patient to Teammate

Men's Health, Your Health | one year ago

From Patient to Teammate

When Derrell Scott was 22-years old, a visit to the emergency room at Atrium Health Cabarrus uncovered a dangerous heart condition that could have taken his life. After a successful heart surgery, he’s now living a normal life and in April 2022 he joined the Atrium Health family as an environmental services technician working at the same hospital where his life changed forever. The avid baseball fan was recently recognized as the Atrium Health Winning Moment at a Kannapolis Cannon Ballers game.

There’s Atrium Health Proud, and then there’s Derrell Scott. 

For the environmental services technician, working at Atrium Health is more than a job. It’s also more than a calling. It represents his entire being. 

“I’m blessed to work at the same place I almost died,” Scott says. 

In 2016, Scott went to the emergency room at Atrium Health Cabarrus, complaining of chest pain. After undergoing a CT scan and several other tests, doctors discovered that Scott had been born with an anomalous coronary artery. It means one of the two coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle, originates in the wrong spot, limiting vital blood flow to the heart. It’s rare and is one of the causes of sudden death sometimes seen in athletes. 

Scott had been a standout athlete who gave up playing baseball in high school because of unexplained fatigue. Now, he finally understands why. 

“Baseball is my heart,” Scott says. “But every time I was on the ball field I’d have to come in early. I thought I was out of shape, but it was really me losing blood to my heart. That vessel was getting shut off every time.”

The good news was that doctors found the issue – and they could fix it. 

Scott was referred to the Congenital Heart Center at Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital, which was a site of a large North American trial studying the various types of these coronary anomalies and their natural history. He ended up in the care of Dr. Thomas Maxey, interim chair of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at Atrium Health’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, who performed the surgery in late 2016.

“The opening of the coronary artery was enlarged and moved into its correct position,” Dr. Maxey explains. “Derrell was discharged home and has made a full recovery. He’s now a valuable member of our Atrium Health team. I expect him to live a full and healthy life with no restrictions.” 

In the spring of 2022, Scott got an email about a hiring event at Atrium Health. Then his mom called to tell him about the same event. He felt like it was a sign. 

“I’ve always had a passion to work here – especially after my heart surgery,” he says. “I wanted to be behind the scenes and to help people like the doctors and nurses who helped me.”

Today, Scott cleans the administration offices at Atrium Health Cabarrus and makes sure the rooms are neat, tidy and clean for patients. His main goal is to make sure anyone coming into the hospital doesn’t leave with something they didn’t come in with. 

“EVS teammates play a crucial role to everyone’s safety,” Scott says. “We’re hands-on with everything the doctors and nurses touch. We are the front line making sure those areas are sanitized and cleaned for our patients.”

Scott’s passion for his work is contagious. 

"Derrell is a delight to work with,” says his supervisor, Laura Barnes, environmental services manager. “His upbeat and enthusiastic attitude has had a big impact on our team. I am amazed at his curiosity. Derrell is always learning and improving. His easy-going manner makes it a joy to work with him.”

And the fact that he’s now working in a place where he was once a patient is never far from his mind. 

“It’s everything,” he says. “Welcoming arms from day one. Atrium Health is literally like a whole other family.”

Scott was recently honored as the Atrium Health Winning Moment recipient at a Kannapolis Cannon Ballers game, even throwing out the first pitch. It was the first time he’d returned to the baseball diamond since his heart condition forced him to give it up so many years ago. 

“It’s crazy,” Scott says. “The same place I stopped at, I’m starting again – on the baseball field and at Atrium Health. A new chapter is starting and I’m working at the hospital that saved my life.”