Ricky Garcia Reaches Pinnacle By Making A Difference In Lives of Others

A cup of coffee, a warm blanket and an engaging conversation are simple everyday gestures for Ricky Garcia, but his keen attention to patients in the Radiology Department at St. Luke's Hospital have brought public recognition to this gentle giant. Not one to be in the spotlight, Garcia faced the paparazzi recently when he was recognized for going above and beyond for the care and safety of his patients.

In addition to red carpet treatment, along with videographers and photographers, balloons and flowers, Garcia was treated to a limo ride to Charlotte to celebrate the honor after he was named one the Top 10 Pinnacle Award winners. Created by Carolinas HealthCare System of Charlotte, the Pinnacle Award is a recognition program to demonstrate caring, commitment, integrity and teamwork. Garcia was one of 760 nominations.

With a shy smile, Garcia seemed somewhat embarrassed by the attention that comes with such a high honor. He shrugs and says he was just doing his job but from all accounts, Garcia goes above and beyond everyday on the job as a receptionist for Radiology Services at St. Luke's Hospital.

Quite frankly, he does more than greet and schedule patients, according to Scott Knestaut, a Nuclear Medicine tech who has worked closely with Garcia over the past 10 years. In a short conversation about his teammate, Knestaut was long on praise for Garcia's intuition and teamwork within the department and across the hospital.

"He is the most helpful, compassionate person, and he truly cares about our patients. Patients come first. Always!" Knestaut said.

Because of his focus on patients, Garcia recognized recently that a patient on the phone was in distress. Intuition told Garcia to call the patient's doctor and express his concern; the doctor in turn called the patient and determined Garcia was right and EMS was dispatched to the patient's home.

Knestaut credits Garcia with saving his life. Thanks to Garcia's quick reaction one morning, Knestaut is here to talk about the family they've become and the respect he feels for Garcia.

"I had no idea I had a heart valve defect, but one morning my heart stopped. There was no blood getting to my brain and I passed out. Thankfully Ricky was there to initiate a Code Blue to alert staff to immediate action. Ricky's quick thinking saved my life," Knestaut said.

Knestaut was stabilized in the ED and transported immediately to Mission Health in Asheville where he underwent emergency surgery to repair the valve. Garcia drove Knestaut's truck from Columbus to Asheville while his wife, Aquasha followed behind to bring Garcia back.

"That was far above and beyond," Knestaut said of his friend. Facing some restrictions once he returned to work, Knestaut said Garcia was always there to help with his patients, transporting patients and readying rooms for a procedure.

But it isn't just the Radiology staff he helps. According to Teresa Davis, director of Radiology at St. Luke's Hospital, "Ricky is always observant and aware of when teammates need help moving or lifting patients. Many times other departments will call and ask for his assistance, and he is always willing to help."

At St. Luke's Hospital, he serves on the DECON team for emergency preparedness, and he has been a pivotal member of an interdisciplinary team engaged in Lean principles for continuous quality improvement. In the community, Garcia is a volunteer fireman and an advocate for a safe and healthy community.

After reading the criteria to nominate a teammate for this prestigious award, Davis cancelled dinner plans to stay at work and compose his nomination for the Pinnacle Award. No one in the "St. Luke's family" was surprised when Garcia won, but everyone was excited, sharing hugs and handshakes, a celebratory cake and colorful balloons.

"Ricky truly has been an amazing teammate who epitomizes 'the best of the best.'" said St. Luke's CEO Ken Shull. "He without doubt deserves to be recognized. He has a gentle spirit and genuine concern for our patients. Ricky is quiet, intuitive, compassionate . . .and he's pretty funny too!"

Garcia, his wife, Davis, Shull and Amy Norville, vice president of Support Services at St. Luke's, enjoyed a memorable limousine ride to the Pinnacle gala in Charlotte to celebrate outstanding teammates, but even after all that "rock star treatment," Garcia stays grounded. He believes he doesn't do anything out of the ordinary-he's just doing his job.

Known for his quiet demeanor, Garcia is also known for his size and stature. Knestaut adds, "The only thing bigger than Ricky is his heart!"