Carolinas HealthCare System
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Stanly Regional Medical Center President Accidentally Discovers a Congenital Heart Defect - Archived

Al Taylor’s medical adventure resulted from happenstance. When a new CT scanner at his hospital needed one more volunteer for an initial series of test scans, he volunteered. Much to his surprise, the scan’s results revealed a congenital heart defect—not an immediate medical threat, but something that would eventually require major surgery to correct.

Besides being the president and CEO of Stanly Regional Medical Center, Taylor was also a devoted runner and fitness enthusiast as an active member of WaveRunners, a local running group in his hometown of Albemarle, N.C.

Despite years of conditioning to complete six half marathons, Taylor was unknowingly born with a hole in his heart. In addition, one of the veins running from his lungs to his heart was actually connected to the wrong side, causing the right side of his heart to enlarge. If left untreated, the condition could eventually lead to irreversible heart damage and an increased risk of stroke.

Benjamin Peeler, MD
Benjamin Peeler, MD
Carolinas Medical Center

As a result, Taylor made an appointment to see Benjamin Peeler, MD, chief of pediatric and adult congenital cardiothoracic surgery at Carolinas HealthCare System's Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, who is a renowned specialist in the repair of congenital heart defects. Following their meeting, surgery was scheduled for the morning of October 1, 2012.

Taylor was released from the hospital four days after Dr. Peeler’s lengthy but successful surgery. Within one week, he was at the Stanly County YMCA navigating a slow, guarded walk around the track. As November approached and his condition gradually improved, he set his sights on competing in a half marathon in South Carolina in February.

"I really started training the first day I was able to get out of bed at the hospital," recalls Taylor.

On February 16, 2013, just four and a half months after undergoing major open heart surgery, Taylor joined his wife, daughter and thousands of other runners on a 13.1 mile run in Myrtle Beach to give his recently tuned-up heart a performance test.

Before the race started, he was proclaimed "a true health advocate" to the waiting crowd around him. "He’s gone from flat line to the finish line in just four and a half months," announced Peter Ascuitto, one of Al’s friends in the Uwharrie Running Club.

"Regardless of what it is going on in your life, you can live healthy," Taylor said. "I have personally experienced the ‘Power of One.’ In my case, this meant clinical excellence and seamless coordination of care. What this has done for me is to affirm that I can overcome anything. One System and One team all worked together on behalf of my one heart. Hopefully, my example will let other cardiac patients realize that they can do the same."

Watch Al Taylor's story in a video