Local Family ‘Sings Praise’ of Healthcare System After Complicated Procedures

Published Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 5:24 pm

According to Randall Burkett, 63, the best part about attending Watauga High School was meeting a sweet girl named Donna Winebarger in study hall. Although she required some extra convincing, the two exchanged vows 43 years ago and have never looked back. Today, their passions include spending time with their son and daughter-in-law and serving their church through a variety of ways including singing in the choir.

unnamed-9Unfortunately, life changed abruptly one Sunday morning a few months ago when Burkett started sweating profusely and having trouble breathing while in the choir loft. After the service, he was encouraged by his doctor to go to the Emergency Department at Watauga Medical Center. He then underwent a battery of diagnostic tests including a chest x-ray and an Endobronchial Ultrasound – a new non-invasive technology used to diagnose diseases found in the chest. The tests revealed that Burkett had stage one lung cancer. This diagnosis caused the lifetime smoker to quit that same day.

Burkett’s case was reviewed by the tumor board – a team of doctors that meet weekly at Watauga Medical Center to review cases and determine the best treatment plan. The tumor board recommended a complex, yet minimally invasive, Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS) to remove the cancer.

Prior to surgery, however, additional complications arose after Burkett failed his pre-surgery stress test. As a precaution, he was referred to the Cardiovascular Lab at Watauga Medical Center to undergo a diagnostic heart catheterization. During the procedure, Interventional Cardiologist Paul Vignola discovered 90% blockages in two different arteries. Dr. Vignola inserted two stents which successfully cleared the blocked arteries.

Afterward, Burkett was considered heart healthy enough for surgery. His VATS procedure was scheduled and successfully completed on December 28, 2015. Post-surgery, he was deemed cancer free and cleared to return home on New Year’s Day.

“Talk about a symbolic day to be discharged,” said Burkett. “I feel like I have been given a second chance on life. This year, my New Year’s resolution is to remain smoke free and to advise others that they should do the same.”

When asked if he considered going off the mountain for his treatment Burkett said, “I was proud to stay local. When I was 16-years-old Watauga Medical Center fixed my broken leg. Since then that hospital has grown into a wonderful healthcare system that is well-equipped to handle complicated cases like mine.”

Through tears of gratitude Donna Burkett said, “Knowing that my husband has been cleared to return to my side in life and in the church choir brings so much joy to my heart.”

The Burketts have faithfully served in their church and choir for more than 25 years. Today, they are singing hymns of thanks.

To learn more about Appalachian Regional Healthcare System visit www.apprhs.org.

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