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Patient portraits, recorded messages decorate new entrance Mt. Pleasant's Frick hospital

Jeff Himler
| Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Traci Fick, vice president of patient care services, views a portrait of patient Arnold Babura of Scottdale and cues his recorded interview that are part of the new Empathy Collection display at the remodeled main entrance of Excela Square at Frick Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 in Mt. Pleasant.
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Traci Fick, vice president of patient care services, views a portrait of patient Arnold Babura of Scottdale and cues his recorded interview that are part of the new Empathy Collection display at the remodeled main entrance of Excela Square at Frick Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 in Mt. Pleasant.
Five patient portraits are included in a new Empathy Collection display at the remodeled main entrance of Excela Square at Frick Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 in Mt. Pleasant.
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Five patient portraits are included in a new Empathy Collection display at the remodeled main entrance of Excela Square at Frick Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 in Mt. Pleasant.
Excela Health cardiologist Dr. Howard Grill
Excela Health
Excela Health cardiologist Dr. Howard Grill
A facade featuring stone and glass and a canopy for sheltering arriving patients and visitors are part of the remodeled main entrance of Excela Square at Frick Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 in Mt. Pleasant.
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
A facade featuring stone and glass and a canopy for sheltering arriving patients and visitors are part of the remodeled main entrance of Excela Square at Frick Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 in Mt. Pleasant.

Retired mail carrier Arnold Babura has a personal message to deliver to visitors to Mt. Pleasant's Excela Square at Frick hospital.

Babura, a Scottdale resident, is one of five patients of the Westmoreland County health care system whose portraits and voices greet those using the hospital's newly remodeled entrance that opened Monday.

He hopes those who view the photo display will be reminded to “try to take care of yourself.”

Babura, 86, took a disability retirement in 1985 after suffering six heart attacks and undergoing multiple bypass surgeries. He's also had two strokes, cancer surgery and diabetes complications that have weakened his legs, requiring him to use a scooter and cane to get around.

“I'm very fortunate to still be around,” he said, giving credit to his past level of physical activity and to his doctors, including Excela cardiologist Dr. Howard Grill.

Babura earned 12 letters in high school sports before delivering mail to fellow Scottdale residents for 36 years, walking 10 miles a day on his route. He said doctors have told him that physical conditioning helped him to bounce back from his cardiac problems.

“My regular arteries are all blocked,” Babura said, but he noted, “My body has manufactured spiderweb arteries. That's what's pumping my heart.”

Grill, who also has a passion for photography, conceived the patient gallery at Frick, creating the black-and-white images of the quintet and a recorded interview with each. Interviews can be heard by pressing a button beneath each of the photos, on a wall opposite the entrance doors.

This “Empathy Collection” of patient portraits and life stories also will be a feature of the new Excela Square at Latrobe ambulatory care center under construction off Route 30 in Unity.

According to a plaque to be included in the Frick display, the photos are a reminder that the hospital staff aims to “treat the whole person ... seeing patients as more than just their disease or injury ... particularly those of advancing years.”

“I never minded the cold,” Babura can be heard, recalling his mail route in his interview. “What got me was the rain. I would have to go home and change my underwear. I was soaking wet.”

A self-taught photographer who focuses on landscapes, flora and architecture, Grill was inspired to learn more about his patients and to preserve their images when he treated a World War II veteran, according to Excela spokeswoman Robin Jennings.

Unlike primary care physicians, specialists like Grill — who heads the cardiac catheterization lab at Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg — see each patient less frequently and have to make an extra effort to learn about their lives, Jennings said.

The new lobby, which features stone accents, represents the third phase of a five-year, $20 million makeover for Excela's Frick campus. It began in 2013, with an update of rooms for in-patient care on the hospital's third floor, followed by emergency department improvements.

Late last year, two dining areas were combined into an expanded cafe, next to the main entrance.

Monday's opening of that entrance coincided with the debut of an upgraded outpatient suite, with patient rooms that surround a central lab area.

Next on the agenda is consolidation of physician offices, to be moved from various locations in the community to a section of the hospital's first floor.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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