A Legacy of Generosity: Major Donation to Watauga Medical Center in Memory of Dr. Al Petti | Blower rocket

BOONE – When Chris Petti visited her parents’ cabin in Avery County as a teenager, she didn’t realize how much of an impact the mountains of North Carolina would have on her. She also couldn’t foresee how she and her husband, Dr Al Petti, would have their own impact on the community.

Before Dr Petti passed away in 2019, Chris remembers a friend saying, “There are no pockets in the coffins. You cannot take it with you, so spread the good around you. And that’s what the Pettis have spent over 40 years doing in the High Country.

At the peak of a life of philanthropy, Chris still lives by the friend’s advice today, but now, she says, “it’s time to do bigger and better things.” Because Dr. Petti spent many years as an innovative orthopedic surgeon, Chris chose to honor his legacy with a $ 1 million donation to the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation for a new state-of-the-art orthopedic program at Watauga Medical Center. Part of the orthopedic expansion project will be named Petti as a tribute to their history of medical excellence and community advancement.

The roots of medical innovation

Returning to Broward County, Florida, Dr. Petti was the first physician to perform total joint replacements, while Chris was a registered nurse in the pediatric ward at the regional hospital. When the demand for orthopedic surgeries exceeded the availability of operating rooms, Dr Petti and two other doctors built a new hospital and an orthopedic practice. Chris eventually obtained her nurse practitioner certification and worked with her husband.

In the late 1970s, when Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital (Cannon) was still located in Banner Elk, the Pettis bought a house next to their fellow orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Gary Welliver.

Dr Petti was given special privileges to practice at Cannon and would work with Dr Welliver on difficult cases. Dr Petti quickly became known as the “White House Doctor,” because their house was white – but also, as Chris puts it, because “he never met a person he never met. didn’t want to help ”. Friends and neighbors regularly sought her recommendations for medical attention.

Help the community to grow

Having spent every summer here since 1979, Chris said, “I think this is my home. I saw him grow up. They didn’t just watch him grow up; they helped him grow.

“When we moved here there was no grocery store,” Chris said with a chuckle. “Did you need a dry cleaning?” Forget that. Did you want a donut? It didn’t happen. The only restaurant at the time was The Tack Room in Foscoe, and Banner Elk also felt they needed a restaurant. So the Pettis built the structure known as “the Petti Building” and persuaded legendary chef Fabian Botta to open Louisiana Purchase, which now houses the Blind Elk Tap Room.

Over the years to come, the Pettis encouraged many entrepreneurs and restaurateurs to come to Avery County, and Chris said she was excited to see everything there was to do now – restaurants, music. , theater and more.

First Contacts with Medical Care in the High Country Chris Petti was introduced to Watauga Medical Center through the Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center in 1999 when diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Chris had the means and the ability to go anywhere for her cancer care, but she chose to complete her first nine months of chemotherapy at Boone.

“I want to be home in the mountains, where the air is pure and clear,” Chris told her friends who thought she should go to a reputable establishment in a big city. “I was extremely satisfied with my care,” she said. “And I knew I could get anything I needed here. “

“They were phenomenal,” said Chris, “And when I returned to Florida to continue my chemotherapy, I was very disappointed.” She found the care at the Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center clinically excellent, but also caring, kind, loving and “not what you would find in a large institution.”

Chris said she found the same level of care in all services offered by the Appalachian Regional Health System.

Several years ago, she had gallbladder surgery in Florida and arrived at their mountain home when she fell very ill. For months, none of his doctors could tell him what was going on.

Dismissing the idea of ​​returning to Florida, Chris saw Dr. David Kimmel, who she said was comfortable, calm and knew exactly what was wrong. He prescribed her medication that cured her months-long illness, and has been her primary care provider ever since.

She is also a patient of Dr. Andrew Hordes at the Heart and Vascular Center at Watauga Medical Center, and is especially pleased that they have recently extended cardiac catheterization to 24/7 coverage. Most patients can now stay at Watauga Medical Center for life-saving treatment any time of the day or night. “If you have a cardiac event, you need to get treatment quickly,” she said.

Bloom where you are planted

In the past, accessing primary care doctors was a barrier, but Chris insists it’s important to find a local doctor even for residents who are only here six months a year: “If you are in the mountains and you have a problem you need a doctor. You have to find a doctor and be established, ”she advises.

And now it’s easier than ever to access exceptional primary care in the High Country with the growth of Elk River Medical Associates, Baker Center for Primary Care, AppFamily Medicine and the Family Medicine Residency Program. rural MAHEC, and the addition of same-day appointments. and hours of passage.

Chris has been a longtime supporter and ambassador of the Appalachian Regional Health System throughout his time in the High Country, participating in the Pretty in Pink fundraiser and making other donations. But in this phase of life, she wants to help position Watauga Medical Center to compete with any other hospital in terms of modern technology, advancements, facilities, and people.

His generous contribution to the orthopedic wing was not for personal recognition, but to show his support for the project. She hopes the community will see that there are people who care about him and be inspired to join in his donations.

“When I heard about the new orthopedic wing, I thought it would be a perfect match. I realized I could help more extensively than ever before, ”said Chris. “The High Country is a tight-knit community, and knowing the people involved makes it personal to me. I don’t just give a corporate gift, but I give to people who will provide quality care that will honor my husband’s memory and make us proud.

For more information on the Watauga Medical Center expansion project and how to get involved, visit apprhs.org/higherelevation.


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