First Heart Hospital patient and family thankful for new facility

Rozella Tallent checked in to The University of Tennessee Medical Center as a patient for heart surgery. She’ll go home feeling a lot better and holding an important place in the history of both the medical center and cardiovascular disease care in the East Tennessee region.

At 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 29, the Maryville resident officially became the first patient of the new dedicated Heart Hospital at UT Medical Center. A full team of physicians, nurses, technicians, administrators and information systems experts worked diligently, putting into practice a plan that had been months in the making, to ensure a safe and successful move of patients from the existing cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) to the new unit, a technologically advanced 24-bed unit offering large private rooms for patients and their families.

“I didn’t expect to be the first patient at the Heart Hospital, but I’m grateful for it,” Tallent said the day after the move to the new CVICU, looking relaxed as she sat in a chair next to her hospital bed with her family at her side. “I have rave reviews for this new part of the hospital. It’s so quiet, peaceful and comfortable in here. They did a great job on the move. I was so appreciative, because the nurse who had been with me all night stayed with me to make sure the move went well.”

Within moments after the large team of clinical and support staff brought Tallent into Room 23 of the new unit, UT Medical Center heart surgeon Dr. Thomas Gaines was at her bedside, checking and monitoring to be sure that the move had no impact on Tallent’s condition. Members of the Tallent family became instant fans of Dr. Gaines before the surgery. He earned their trust throughout the day of the April 21 repeat coronary bypass and aortic root replacement.

“My mother had a very serious case and was in surgery for several hours that day,” said Penny Kirkland, Tallent’s daughter. “I couldn’t believe Dr. Gaines was in surgery that entire time when I saw him walking around here late that night still checking to see how his patients were doing. I’d say he’s a pretty great doctor.”

The Tallent family got to see Dr. Gaines even more in the new CVICU, thanks to the family-centered care environment design of the unit complete with a flat screen TV and pull-out sleeper sofa in each patient room, as well as a nearby family lounge and a family coffee and respite area at the end of one hall inside the CVICU. The concept is for family members to stay with their loved one to help provide the familiarity and emotional support offered by relatives.

Well rested after spending the first night in her mother’s room in the new unit, Kirkland became an instant proponent of the dedicated Heart Hospital concept.

“It’s so much more comfortable here than in the old family waiting lounge,” Kirkland said. “I think you rest so much better here because you can look and see your family member is there and doing OK. As for the patients, I think you’re going to see an increased success rate and quicker recoveries with the Heart Hospital.”

Dr. Gaines took notice of the comfort level enjoyed by Tallent and her family.

“I would definitely say that she was able to visit with her family more after she moved to the new unit,” Dr. Gaines said. “I think that family interaction is quite helpful, especially for her emotional status.”

In fact, Tallent’s overall status was so positive, Dr. Gaines quickly cleared her from the CVICU, meaning she would go to a cardiovascular patient floor, a step towards being able to go home from the hospital. It also meant that her stay in the new CVICU lasted just one day.

“I hate to leave this nice new room, but I know it means I’m doing better,” Tallent acknowledged. “We just think it’s wonderful here.”