When Emory Healthcare and Atlanta Motor Speedway officials began searching for the grand marshal of this year's Emory Healthcare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, they didn't have to search long or far to find the perfect candidate – and who already possessed the perfect tailor-made nickname for such an occasion.
Lawrenceville native Terry "Mr. 500" Green has been named the grand marshal for this year's race, the Emory Healthcare 500, to be held on Labor Day weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Green's story - and how he came to be known as "Mr. 500" - actually had nothing to do with automobile racing when the title was created back in March 2008, after he became the 500th heart transplant recipient at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Green is also one of very few – if not the ONLY patient from Emory - who can actually say he was born twice in the same hospital and mean it. Not only did he receive his heart transplant at Emory almost 61 years to the day of his birth, but he was also born in the hospital, which no longer delivers babies (Emory University Hospital Midtown – previously Emory Crawford Long - has long since provided these services.)
While Emory University Hospital no longer delivers babies, Green can now claim - and really mean it - that he was literally born twice at Emory University Hospital.
"It was a very special feeling to have a new chance at life because of my heart transplant, and the fact that I was also the 500th person to receive a new heart at Emory was extra special," said Green, who is a fifth generation Gwinnett County native. "To be named the grand marshal for the Emory Healthcare 500, an event that is such an incredible show, and means so much to Georgia and the Atlanta metropolitan area each year, is beyond a special surprise – it is an honor. I am so excited to see my first race in person, and I will forever carry with me the memory by being a part of such a special event."
According to Dane Peterson, Chief Operating Officer for Emory University Hospital Midtown, having Green serve as the official grand marshal is a special treat for the Emory Healthcare family, as well as Green and his family.
"When we began to discuss who we might have as the ceremonial starter for this event, it didn't take very long at all for Terry's name and story to jump right into the front of the pack," said Peterson. "We were all very familiar with Terry's incredible story, and since his transplant a few years ago, he has befriended Emory in many ways as one of our best known ambassadors. Once everyone quickly agreed that 'Mr. 500' should undoubtedly be our guy to officially start the engines Sunday night, the only question left was, 'Is he a race car fan?'"
Green, who has never seen a race in person, is a fan – particularly of No. 29 Kevin Harvick. But just how did Green become a fan of Harvick, as opposed to any one of the other 42 race car drivers who will compete in Atlanta?
"Interesting story," said Green. "One day I was in my local car dealership getting my vehicle serviced, and they were sponsoring a contest. The grand prize was a cruise ship vacation. I didn't win the vacation ... but I won a Kevin Harvick scale model vehicle. I've been following and rooting for him ever since."
And speaking of cruise ships – it was aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean during a vacation with his wife that Green suddenly suffered a severe heart attack. He was stabilized aboard the ship, and later on shore, before being transported back to Georgia and Emory for care. He would later learn that the doctors that treated him in the Caribbean were both Emory University School of Medicine trained physicians.
"You talk about another extra special link to this whole experience," said Green. Not only was my life saved on foreign soil by doctors who learned their trade at Emory, but I would receive my transplant there, was born there, and will now forever be known as 'Mr. 500' for this once-in-a-lifetime event."
And who is Green bringing to this year's race? His wife? His son? A neighbor or co-worker?
"My au pair," said Green.
"Lee Mitchell, who is actually a good buddy of mine who looked after me - along with my wife, Danette, and my son Taylor Green, who is a race fan, while I was at Emory waiting on my heart transplant. Even though my wife is not going, I know she'll be watching for me on TV."
The Emory Healthcare 500
The biggest Labor Day party in the USA is at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Emory Healthcare 500 race weekend on Sept. 3 -5. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway Ticket Office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX, or visitwww.atlantamotorspeedway.com.
Emory Heart Transplant Program
The Heart Transplant Program has been in existence at Emory University Hospital since 1985 when it performed the first heart transplant in Georgia. Today Emory's patient survival rates are among the best in the country.
Emory's transplant program has an experienced multi-disciplinary team highly skilled in the care of heart transplant candidates and recipients. This team includes the Center's cardiologists, a transplant surgeon, transplant coordinators, a social worker, psychiatrist, psychiatric clinical nurse specialist, pharmacist, clinical nutritionist, physical therapist, chaplain, staff nurses and a financial coordinator. Each member of this team offers a specialized service in the care of our transplant patients.