A Lot of Heart
Nursing Students Make Donation to Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System after Their Teacher Receives Life-Saving Cardiac Care
Regina Norton has been a nurse educator in Morristown for many years. Together with her husband, she has five children and three stepchildren. She is passionate about her work and dedicated to her nursing students, who graduate to become licensed practical nurses and work in locations near and far.
In 2020, Norton experienced severe bouts of shortness of breath. She would easily become winded when walking up stairs or short distances. As a medical professional, Norton knew to seek medical attention right away.
Timing is Everything
Norton says it is because of the quick, life-saving action of the cardiac team at Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System that she is still here today.
The mom and educator received two stents during a diagnostic cardiac catheterization procedure in December 2020, and returned for a third stent within days. This imaging procedure, also referred to as a “heart cath,” is when a small tube is inserted into a blood vessel to determine if there are any blockages to the arteries around the heart. The vessel is accessed through the groin or wrist, and the patient is typically awake with sedation.
“I had several arteries that were almost all the way blocked,” Norton recalls. “The stents helped and I was stabilized, but I came back a few months later and had another heart cath. That’s when they told me I would need bypass surgery.”
A stent is a small device placed inside the blood vessel to keep it open, allowing for optimum blood flow. According to Norton’s physicians, roughly 30 percent of patients who receive a stent can still require further treatment to prevent blockages in the vessels surrounding their heart. Doctors recommend heart bypass surgery when one or more of the blood vessels that transport blood to the heart muscles become partially blocked and stents are not sufficient, or are in a location where the stent placement procedure would be too risky.
Because she was still experiencing life-threating blockages that could not be safely fixed with stents, Norton underwent coronary artery bypass surgery at Parkwest Medical Center in June 2021. She stayed for several days in the hospital and has been on the slow road to recovery ever since.
Paying it Forward
A year later, the nurse educator says she is just now starting to feel like herself again. Together with her nursing students, she decided to do something special in February 2022. To celebrate “Heart Month” and bring awareness to cardiac disease, several groups of students held fundraisers in their communities, offering BMI calculations and blood pressure checks, plus many other creative ideas to raise funds for a good cause.
Norton and her students raised over $1,000 and recently donated the proceeds to Morristown-Hamblen’s cardiac and pulmonary rehab program in the summer of 2022. She said they made it a fun and educational experience while fundraising. When they came to the hospital to present the check, the students got to meet the hospital staff and take a tour of the facility. It was very meaningful to them, Norton says, because they hope to continue their careers in healthcare, and it was a special treat to see everything up close.
Cardiac Team Extraordinaire
Brad Richardson, RCIS, is the manager of cardiac and pulmonary services at Morristown-Hamblen. He says donations like the one given to the program are humbling, and “they affirm that our team lives our pledge of excellence in all we do and with each patient we serve.”
The cardiac and pulmonary services team is comprised of 15 staff members including registered nurses, cardiovascular specialists and registered respiratory therapists. These team members provide cardiac emergency care 24/7/365.
“This team is unlike any other,” Richardson says. “They consistently provide excellent care with compassion and empathy. Despite being a ‘smaller’ group, every year they beat national benchmarks and nationally established goals for cardiac care delivery. Putting patients first is the crux of what we do and drives how we provide care. It allows us to provide excellent care to every patient.”
Richardson adds, “Morristown-Hamblen is the only hospital between Knoxville and the Tri-Cities that is currently equipped to diagnose and treat an active heart attack. We provide service for multiple counties. The cardiac service line has been repeatedly awarded Gold status or higher by the American Heart Association for the care we provide.”
Regina Norton wants people to know that Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System is her hometown hospital, and it’s a place where patients receive excellent care. “Not just medical care, but compassionate care,” she says. Norton was advised to seek treatment for her heart and not to wait a moment longer. She felt extremely cared for and listened to by the cardiac physicians and the hospital staff. She says that God put her in their hands to save her life.