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Sentara Norfolk General Heart Hospital patient gives back

Rufe Vanderpool was once a patient at Sentara Norfolk General Heart Hospital. He knows how current patients feel and he makes it his mission to help them smile.

NORFOLK, Va. — "They don't know where they're at in the hospital. They're scared you know, they're crying,” said Vanderpool.

There are many stressful moments for patients at Sentara Heart Hospital in Norfolk. Rufe Vanderpool knows those moments well because he was admitted to Sentara just three years ago.

"Most people don't even realize that this is hanging on my body,” said Vanderpool.

Vanderpool had such a serious heart attack, doctors had to put an LVAD in him, which is a mechanical pump used for patients who survived serious heart failure.

"In May of 2018, I was gone,” said Vanderpool. "They had to shock me 25 times. You know, and it's just like in the movies by the way."

Now, for the past three months, Vanderpool comes back twice a week to volunteer at the registration desk and lighten up the halls of Sentara.

"You know when you help people here, I tell them, what you get is a hug from the soul," Vanderpool remarked.

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He even goes above and beyond by visiting current patients, like Lonnie Peterson. Peterson said talking to Vanderpool puts him at ease because he understands.

"Once you realize that your life is in question, it changes your whole format about everything that you do and say,” said Peterson.

Vanderpool even has a way of connecting with patients' families. He checks in on them to make sure they’re taking care of themselves too.

As American Heart Month continues this February, Vanderpool wants to live his life to the fullest and give back to the place that saved his life.

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