University Hospital opens new Heart and Vascular Institute

February 17, 2009, News 12 at 6 o'clock

AUGUSTA, Ga.--- We watched them break ground and then we watched the construction of concrete and steel rise out of the ground. Tuesday, University Hospital cut the ribbon on it's brand new Heart and Vascular Institute. It features four stories of cutting edge medical technology and a reminder of just how far they have come over the years.

Bernie Thomas is one of the first patients to see the new building from the inside. He had an old brochure, yellowing from age, in his room. On it, a picture of a nurse, dressed in all white, standing by the equipment of the day. 1950's technology. It's what the state of the art in critical care used to look like at University Hospital. But if the 1950's era nurse walked out of the past and into this room, she wouldn't believe her eyes.

Bernie is very impressed by his modern surroundings.
"It's been really good. I haven't seen much of the building."

You'll have to forgive Bernie for not getting out more. He's recovering from some serious surgery. But he's not a heart patient.

"I wondered why I was here when I first got here 'cause I didn't have what I would consider cardiovascular surgery, which I consider heart surgery. I had cancer, esophageal cancer."

Doctors actually removed part of his esophagus and reattached it to his stomach. But when it comes to recovery, its very similar to cardiovascular surgery.

Doctor Mac Bowman is a long time Augusta cardiologist who is happy to see this building and this day finally come. He says one of the biggest changes may be in Bernie's own room.

"These rooms are designed in a way they can be fashioned into an ICU room so that the patient is not moved, his or her family is not moved," Dr. Bowman said.

That's right, if you need to be in intensive care for a day or two, your room changes into an I.C.U. There's more room for family to stay there too. After all, they play a big role in recovery.

According to Doctor Bowman, "Family members can be there, essentially continuously, to assist, support and motivate healing."

And out in the hallway- there's something else you should see. Flat screens on every wall, giving nurses passing by a quick snapshot of every room on the wing. Technology everywhere. Monitoring patients who just want to get well and go home.

"Well, I'd rather not be, but if I have to be a patient someplace," Bernie says, "this has been a good experience, it has."

It's all a far cry from the way we used to do critical care. That University nurse from the 50's might not recognize the room or the equipment. But that nurse, Blanche Thomas would certainly recognize her own son, Bernie. He's now a critical care patient using technology that might amaze his mother.

The new Heart and Vascular Institute sits on the back corner of the University property next to the Emergency Room. And there's plenty of parking. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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