DON PLUNKETT FIGURES HE OWES HIS LIFE TO THE PEACHTREE ROAD RACE, AS WELL AS TO EMORY'S CARLYLE FRASER HEART CENTER. Four years ago, in perfect health and excellent physical shape, with no family history of heart problems, the 50-something Plunkett had crossed the starting line, expecting a pleasant run. But at Peachtree and 17th, he pitched forward, unconscious. A physician running close by began sternum-crushing CPR, as medics from a Grady Hospital ambulance stationed at that precise corner raced to his side with a defibrillator. Restarting his heart took three blasts, the last at such high power that his chest was burned. Within minutes he was being wheeled into Emory Crawford Long Hospital’s emergency room only blocks away. Three hours after crossing the starting line, instead of enjoying a celebratory brunch with his family, Plunkett was undergoing emergency triple bypass surgery.
     He later realized the morning had been an orchestration of good luck and good timing, starting with the cry, “Runner down!” Since Plunkett had no prior symptoms from the three major blockages found in his heart, no pain at the time of his heart attack, he might have died before anyone noticed had the attack occurred in the comfort of his own bed. But the fifth-generation Atlantan also tells everyone he meets that he owes his life to the accumulation of expertise and dedication waiting for him at the Carlyle Fraser Heart Center, what he calls “that hidden treasure down on Linden Avenue.” “I have been in business for a long time,” he says, “and I can tell when people have put together a crackerjack team. That’s what I had.”
     Knowing many runners fear failure to get a Peachtree t-shirt second only to death, the Atlanta Track Club later presented a prized shirt to Plunkett. He had it framed and gave it to Emory Crawford Long Hospital, where it hangs today. (All race shirts earned since his successful surgery and rehabilitation at Emory, he keeps!) Plunkett also has turned his gratitude into learning more about Emory Healthcare as a member of the Emory Hospitals Visiting Committee and a supporter of the Emory Heart Center’s push to develop ever better cardiac care, including ways of detecting hidden problems like he had. That, he says, is a race well worth winning.

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  Surgery on a beating heart  
It’s the most minimally invasive cardiac surgery available anywhere, with no crushed sternum, broken bones, large incision, or lengthy, uncomfortable convalescence. Thomas Vassiliades, one of the nation’s pioneers in minimally invasive heart surgery, repairs severely blocked coronary arteries through tiny incisions between the ribs while the heart is still beating. A small video camera inserted endoscopically enables him to guide the surgical instruments. Patients and doctors love the procedure, says Vassiliades, because it involves minimal pain and discomfort, has a lower risk of infection than traditional bypass, and avoids the risks associated with heart-lung bypass machines, a frequent culprit in surgical morbidity. As this type of heart surgery becomes more common, the economic and health impact is expected to be substantial.
Make people healthy:
> GIVE A FAILING HEART A BOOST. Heart failure affects more than 4.7 million Americans. A $500,000 endowment would provide an annual $25,000 seed grant to study causes and new treatments.
> RAISE THE BAR BELL. Your gift of $100 or more could help maintain the cardiovascular and weight-training equipment in the Emory Heartwise wellness program, where patients being treated for heart disease exercise under close medical supervision.
> CREATE YOUR OWN "NOBEL PRIZE." In academics, there’s no higher honor than a named chair, professorship, or program. Create your own—or become part of an existing one. Gifts to the J. Willis Hurst Internal Medicine Residency Training Program honor this beloved cardiologist and teacher by supporting his vision: providing unparalleled educational experience to young residents and fellows.
> BRING ART TO LIFE. Art can be healing, and a new program at Emory gives the local arts community a larger role in Emory Healthcare. For $1,000, you can buy artwork to hang in patient care areas; $22,000 will outfit and light space in Emory University Hospital’s cardiac imaging unit to hang work by professional artists and patients; $50,000 will splash bright colors and appealing pictures throughout Wesley Woods Hospital’s Center for Health in Aging or the Winship Cancer Institute.
Send your gift today by calling 404-727-3518, or give online.
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