CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) — A new clinic opened this month at a children’s hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, for children suffering from congenital heart problems, and a former Carolina Panther was instrumental in its founding.
Former Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and his wife Kara opened HEARTest Yard Congenital Heart Center at Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital. The Olsens say the new clinic was inspired by their own experience with their son, TJ.
“This has been a long time coming,” according to Greg.
Their medical journey with TJ, who has a congenital heart defect, is what motivated Greg and Kara to make the treatment process easier and less overwhelming for other families.
“To now think that we played a role in bringing a 25,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art heart center to the campus of Levine’s Children’s Hospital is a really cool journey and one that Kara and I are really proud of,” Greg said.
Dr. Joe Paolillo, interim division chief of pediatric cardiology at Atrium Health Levine Children’s and Sanger Heart and Vascular Institute, says with the new combined clinic providers come to patients, so patients don’t have to bounce around to different locations on campus.
“[Now we can] bring the services that those children need into the same space, so we’re talking about mental health professionals, nutritionists, neuropsychologist, and speech therapy,” said Paolillo.
For the Olsens, “our hearts go out to families like the Rankin’s who spoke at the event and the thousands of other families that we’ve met who have come through Levine’s Children’s Hospital and they stop us and they say, ‘we use the Heartest Yard Nursing program’.
Now, the HEARTest Yard Congenital Heart Center at Levine Children’s will build on its mission to provide first-class healthcare, so pediatric patients like 10-year-old Joleel Rankin can reach their fullest potential.
“I want to be a scientist when I grow up because I really like science,” Rankin said.
“To see the change that you can implement, it’s really special,” said Greg.