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Patient recounts time at Emory Hospital, thanks staff for saving life

Thomas Harrell, 54, recently underwent open heart surgery at Emory Hospital in Atlanta for a leaking valve. Now, he wants to thank the residents of Bainbridge and his surgical team for making it a success.

Approximately two years ago, Harrell was at Memorial Hospital and Manor, where they found the leaking valve. He was then sent to Archbold and referred to a cardiologist, who later sent him to Emory Hospital for the surgery.

Prior to the surgery, Harrell was having trouble affording his medications, due to being out of work. That is when the local businesses of Bainbridge stepped up.

Harrell said the local businesses came together and allowed him to do odd jobs, such as detail cars, in order for him to afford his medications.

Some of the businesses Harrell wants to thank and acknowledge are First State Bank of Bainbridge, Terminx of Bainbridge, Murkerson’s Gymnastics, Franklin Spring Creek Ford, McLenney Farms in Miller County, Northern Construction in Whigham, Ga., Jackson Rudy Pollock in Climax, Ga, Sweet’s Barber Shop and King’s Korner in Bainbridge.

“They would give me encouraging words and give me little odd jobs,” Harrell said. “Everyone who helped me has been heaven sent.”

Harrell said the medication saved his life, until he could get his surgery.

“It was a worry and I had a constant cough,” he said. “I stayed swollen and if I hadn’t taken that medicine I would’ve died.”

After years of waiting and being on medication, Harrell finally was sent to Emory. However, while he was there he had a panic attack.

In order to get to his doctor’s office, Harrell was required to walk across a sky bridge, which he said terrified him.

“It’s not that I’m afraid of heights, but I have an ear imbalance,” he said. “They told me I had to go across it, but then this lady saw what was happening and she came to my aid.”

Harrell said this woman took his arm and led him to where he had to go.

“It was a blessing,” he said. “If it wasn’t for her; I wouldn’t have made it.”

Harrell said this was the first of many people at Emory who treated him like they had known him his whole life.

“They are very special,” he said. “I know right now with everything COVID-19 has done and it’s been so devastating, but the bright side is Emory is doing some really special stuff right here in Georgia.”

Harrell can attest to those “special things.”

He went for his surgery last Wednesday, where a five-hour surgery, ended up only taking three hours. He was then moved into the ICU, where he spent a short amount of time, before being transferred into a regular room.

He said he spent Saturday and Sunday gaining strength and returned home to Bainbridge on Tuesday.

“I feel like a champ now,” he said. “I tell people I feel like an F150.”

Harrell wants to thank everyone who came together for his cause. He said he knows God played a role in helping everyone come together for a greater cause, and during that time little kids were watching and seeing how they should help others as well.

“I love Bainbridge and the people here,” Harrell said. “It’s bad that we allow something tragic to bring us together, but it’s a start.”

Harrell finished by thanking everyone again and reiterating what a special place Emory is and how much they changed his life.