BOONE — While wandering through the library at Middle Tennessee State University in 1967, a young Charles “Chick” Fuller couldn’t help but notice the attractive co-ed up on the ladder replacing books on the shelves. He confidently sauntered up and asked her if she could tell him where to find a book on oceanography. She astutely asked, “what do I look like, a card catalog?”
Chick knew how to use the card catalog. His mom was a librarian. So, after he went up three floors to the card catalog and found a few books on the subject, he returned to the girl on the ladder to let her know he had found what he was looking for. Then he asked her what she was doing that weekend. The rest is history. Chick and Vickie Fuller were married six months later.
Their life together allowed them to travel all over the Southeast for Chick’s job in human resources with Sears. From there, they owned several seafood retail markets in Florida. The past 25 years, they’ve made their home in Linville, NC where they have run a successful construction and design business, Fuller and Fuller, which they recently sold.
It’s not always obvious at the time, but one can sometimes look back at the most profound moments of their life and realize they were in the right place at the right time. Whatever it may be called — divine will, kismet, fate, destiny, luck — Chick and Vickie have impeccable timing.
It wasn’t his time
Chick’s timing couldn’t have been better in November, 2005. He was driving a load of rock from Marion and began experiencing chest pains. He pulled into Grandfather Golf and Country Club and asked the guards to take him to Cannon Memorial Hospital (CMH). Vickie, who was shopping in Boone, was called and immediately got on the road and managed to pick up a Highway Patrol escort on her way.
“I knew I was having a heart attack. They called my physician who couldn’t believe it because I was in good shape. I had some sort of clot issue — a widowmaker,” he said.
Vickie made it in time to give him a kiss before she was urgently ushered from the room.
Chick was given a clot buster and the clot moved to his heart. He flatlined.
In the 6.5 minutes Chick was gone, the health care team at CMH defibrillated him five times.
“They wouldn’t give up,” Vickie remembers.
After all of their efforts, Chick came back. From there he was flown to Johnson City Medical Center where he had a stent procedure.
The stars were perfectly aligned for Vickie as well when she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in April 2016 at the Breast Center in Boone. Because of the quick turn-around in her diagnosis, she qualified for a research study at UNC Lineberger. The study lasted four years and she never had to undergo chemo or radiation. It also helped provide valuable information for treating breast cancer patients.
Three years later in November 2019, she broke her kneecap in half after a fall. Dr. Anderson from AppOrtho repaired it and therapists at The Rehabilitation Center helped get her moving again. “The whole experience was very good — if you have to break your knee cap,” she says.
The right time to give
After these harrowing, life changing, health care events — the couple have become champions for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. Chick joined the board of directors of Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation in 2013. The Fullers owned a lot on Linville Ridge that they no longer planned to build on and decided to donate it to ARHS. And once again, their timing couldn’t have been better. Proceeds from the sale of the lot will go toward the expansion project underway on the campus of Watauga Medical Center. The Fullers saw this as the perfect way to show their appreciation and also make an impact on the future of health care in the High Country.
“We were so excited we had something to give,” Vickie said.
After making the donation, the Fullers were excited to learn how much the property was worth.
“We had this chance to make a large contribution and to our pleasure it’s worth a lot of money.
It’s a beautiful lot too,” Chick says.
“When you make a sizable contribution, there’s always a ‘why.’ Health care has always been good to us,” Chick says. “This is a way to give back.”
“In all of our experiences there is no one more compassionate [than local health care providers],” Chick says. “That’s the nature of the people here. They are really nice. It has come a long way and will continue to improve. We’re happy to take this endeavor on to make people aware of how lucky we are to have this health care system here. It makes us feel like a bigger part of the community.”
About the expansion project
ARHS began a $126 million construction project, making structural and technological enhancements to ensure the delivery of premier health care into the future. The project includes building a new 48-bed Schaefer Family Patient Care Tower, an upgraded central energy plant, relocating the orthopedics program to the Wellness Center, and supporting the residency program.
“When we started talking about this project initially, it involved building a new bed tower and moving outpatient services back to campus in a new medical office building,” said Rob Hudspeth, Sr. Vice President for System Advancement at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and the President of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation. “We felt like it was the right thing to do for the community. In 2020 Watauga Medical Center was designated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as a five-star hospital, but we know it will be difficult to continue delivering five-star care in a 60-year-old building.”
“For years, ARHS has successfully worked around limitations in space and declining buildings that have kept us from achieving our full potential. It’s time we invest in people, systems, and facilities. This will expand our opportunities and position us for the future,” said Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.
In addition to the $126 million bond issuance for construction, the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation has been tasked with raising $12 million through a capital campaign for ancillary costs such as people, programs, and technology to enhance the project further. Because of gifts like the one from the Fullers, as well as several other generous donors, the Foundation hopes to fully fund the campaign.
The Fullers encourage others to make a similar contribution if they’re able, “It doesn’t have to be here — if you’ve got a beach house you’re not using — donate it. This is your chance to be part of the community and it could save your life someday.”