The public is encouraged to visit the $64 million Dasher Memorial Heart Center and Patient Tower at South Georgia Medical Center from 2 to 4 p.m. today to view the facility, which took more than 15 years of planning.
Joe “Bud” Dasher, the primary benefactor of the heart center, said the new facility has been a dream of his since the 1990s. He and his wife, Audrey, work with the SGMC Foundation to raise money and awareness for the facility, and are tireless ambassadors of the hospital’s mission.
The tower will house the Dasher Memorial Heart Center’s cardiac units together on floors one through three. According to SGMC CEO Randy Sauls, this will be a tremendous help to the cardiology team and the patients, as all the services they need will be consolidated in one area. Previously, services for cardiac patients were in various locations in the hospital.
The new heart center has three cath labs, up from two, and the labs are adjacent to the existing operating suite in the case of someone who needs open heart surgery.
The fourth floor of the tower will be the medical/ surgical intensive care unit, and the fifth floor will be the orthopedic and neurosurgical care unit. All 96 patient beds are located in private rooms, which are larger to accommodate family members and the latest equipment and monitoring stations.
SGMC will begin moving staff and patients into the tower later this week.
Today, there will be a ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. and staff and physicians will be on hand to answer questions. Tours of the facility will continue until 4 p.m.
A Personal Testimony
Mr. Dasher stresses the importance of the new state-of-the-art heart center which will allow staff to consolidate services and improve patient care, but he is also very proud of the work the physicians and staff have done in the current facility.
He encouraged June O’Neal, a recent open heart surgery patient, to share her story with the Times.
At 82, June O’Neal says she was in good health and felt fine, other than being overly tired. Attributing that to her age, she continued on until one day, she woke up with pain down her shoulder into her arm, with difficulty breathing.
She called her son Danny, who quickly determined she needed to go the hospital, and they called an ambulance.
“My friend Aubrey Dasher always told me if I ever had any heart problems, to call am ambulance, because they’ll take care of you on the way to the hospital and you’ll get right in to the heart center.”
June said the paramedics were wonderful and kept her calm. They did a stress test on her, and June said she felt better and wanted to go home, but Dr. Sidney Staton insisted she stay, saying there was something not quite right that he wanted to check out.
The next day, she had a heart catheterization and thought she was going to have a stent put in.
“Everybody I know seems to have a stent, so I didn’t think a thing about it. But they decided I needed open heart surgery, and nobody told me. I just went to sleep and when I woke up, they were done.”
June said Dr. Patrick Murrah performed her surgery and Dr. Staton is her cardiologoist. She credits their care and the care of the nurses and staff to her speedy recovery.
“The nurses were so caring and loving, and they didn’t leave me. They kept me calm and I had no fear at all. I was singing ‘Jesus Take My Hand’ in my brain, and praying for my family.”
June had a five -bypass heart surgery, and was released from the hospital just a few days later. She is receiving home health care and her husband, Glynn, and her children are taking care of her while she recovers.
The namesake of Mama Junes restaurant, her family owns O’Neals buffet, the Smok’n Pig, Ole Times buffet and more. June said one nurse told her she was going to have to stop eating fried chicken, and she replied that she had eaten it her whole life and wasn’t going to stop now.
“I’m on the road to recovery. I told them I’d worn out an 82-year old heart, but now I’ve got a new one, I’ve got 82 years ahead!”
June said she used to worry about going to SGMC if anything serious happened to her, thinking that she’d go out of town to another hospital, but this experience has changed her mind.
“It’s an excellent hospital and a great team in that cardiac unit.”