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Heart failure unit opening at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville
Brian Bailey, left, and Cheryl Shippey, of The Medical Center Foundation, greet visitors Sunday during tours of the Woody Stewart Heart Failure Treatment Unit at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville.

Patients suffering from heart failure now can get help through the area’s first advanced inpatient heart failure treatment unit at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville.

The hospital is opening the Woody Stewart Heart Failure Treatment Unit on the South Tower’s second floor.

“Being able to take this program to the next level of advanced heart failure is going to make a significant difference for patients of our community,” said cardiologist Dr. Brenda Hott, who will oversee care at the unit with Dr. Mehrdad Toosi.

The unit will offer some therapies “that the patient would have previously had to travel to Atlanta or farther to receive,” said Hott during a video presentation at a dedication ceremony Sunday at the hospital.

The unit will start accepting patients in early October but was open to donors for tours at the event sponsored by The Medical Center Foundation.

The treatment unit features 16 private rooms that include nature-inspired artwork, seating that becomes oversized sleepers for caregivers, motion-sensor night lights, tiled bathrooms, showers and LCD televisions with bed control elements.

Patients will be visited by nurses, case managers, social workers, physical therapists, chaplains and others on daily rounds “to ensure optimal care,” a hospital press release states.

The goal is that “the patient, family and other caregivers have all of the tools necessary to self-manage heart failure once returning home.”

The unit also will feature the Nathan-Schrage Teaching Center, which will provide education classes and cooking demonstrations for heart disease patients.

The 1,600-square-foot center includes a kitchen and high-tech audio/visual functions to broadcast classes to patient rooms and other locations.

More than 80 donors gave more than $1 million through the foundation to open the unit.

“Given the increasing demand, it is critical that we are able to offer excellent treatment and education for patients,” Hott said. “Now, through the generosity of the donors, we have a facility that matches our expertise.”

Some 5 million people suffer annually from heart failure in the U.S., she said.

The treatment unit is named after W. Woodrow “Woody” Stewart, who died of heart failure in 2012. The Gainesville lawyer had served as chairman of the foundation from 1998 to 2012.

“The project is a fitting tribute and would not be possible without the support of Woody’s family, close friends and colleagues,” foundation chairman Jim Moore said.

The treatment unit “perpetuates Woody’s remarkable vision and passion for a healthier community, assuring the work that was important to him continues through his lasting legacy.”

The teaching center is named after Lorry and Sherrie Schrage and Sherrie Schrage’s mother,  Muriel Nathan, who provided “a lead signature gift.”

“My daddy used to say you have to pay your rent to live in this world — to give something back to the community,” Lorry Schrage said.

“As a family, we are very grateful for everything that our hospital has done for our community,” Sherrie Schrage said. “This is something we feel we could do to help the community and the hospital.”