Wilkes County Health Foundation in Wilkesboro, NC

Wilkes County Health Foundation, a nonprofit community focused business, works with local hospitals to increase quality of care and services.

Laura Hill
On Monday, May 23, 2011 - 10:35
Wilkes County, NC

How do you care for an elderly parent when you’ve got a full-time job? How can rural heart attack victims get immediate treatment? What is the quickest way to transport trauma patients? These were questions you might have asked in Wilkes County, but not anymore. Thanks to the Wilkes County Health Foundation, the community has answers.

Volunteers Built the Foundation

The Health Foundation was started in 1991 by volunteers with a mission to help improve the health and welfare of their community. Working with the Wilkes Regional Medical Center, the foundation helped raise money for the hospital’s new family medicine center.

In 2002, a helicopter landing pad was added thanks in part to the foundation’s efforts. And another project made Wilkes County a national leader in the emergency care of heart attack victims.

“Our community is one of the few in the country with a fully developed system for patients with cardiac arrest to receive treatment in the field,” says Heather Murphy, the foundation’s executive director.

Heart Care Covered

Working with Wilkes Regional and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Heart Center, all county emergency response teams have been trained to administer clot-busting drugs on the scene and transport patients straight to the heart center within a crucial 90-minute window. Special digital equipment, recently converted from analog with the financial support of the foundation, means EMTs can send EKG results and receive information from doctors while en route to the hospital – an enormous boon to cardiac patients’ survival.

“What we want people to know is that if you think you are having a heart attack, don’t go to the ER – call 911,” says Murphy. “They’ll treat you right there and get you where you need to go.”

Adult Needs Met

The foundation opened the Ruby Pardue Blackburn Adult Day Care Center at West Park in 2008, providing medically supervised adult enrichment for the frail elderly who cannot be on their own during the day. The center offers socialization, activities and medical care in a homelike setting, where the elderly are treated with dignity, free to choose what they want – or don’t want – to do.

“This is a great option that can delay placement in nursing homes or assisted living for a couple of years, or even indefinitely,” Murphy says. “It’s not day care. You want to honor and recognize that these are adults who can choose what they want to do, whether they want to read, have a cup of coffee or take a nap.”

The bulk of the more than $2 million in funds raised for the center came from individuals in the community, boosted by grants from the Duke Endowment, Lowe’s Companies and the Golden Leaf Foundation. Eagerly anticipated, the center already had a waiting list

“Our success is based on the generous support of the people of Wilkes County,” Murphy says. “We’re blessed with one of the most forward-thinking and generous groups of people I’ve ever had the privilege to know.”

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Laura Hill is a former reporter/columnist for the Tennessean and a contributor to Journal Communications publications since 1996.