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Oak Lawn man meets nurse who saved his life

Gerald 'Jack' Boekeloo hugs Dawn Bausone-Gazdnurse Advocate Christ Medical Center after giving her flowers during news conference hospital Oak Lawn

Gerald "Jack" Boekeloo, hugs Dawn Bausone-Gazda, a nurse at Advocate Christ Medical Center after giving her flowers during a news conference at the hospital in Oak Lawn, IL on Tuesday, July 17, 2012. Dawn happened to be driving by 95th and Cicero on November 19, 2011, when she saw that Jack had been in an accident, she helped him and saved his life. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media .

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Updated: August 19, 2012 6:24AM



After suffering a heart attack while driving, and then crashing into another car, Gerald “Jack” Boekeloo was laying on the pavement at 95th Street and Cicero Avenue in Oak Lawn when a woman stopped her car and administered CPR.

For the next eight months, Boekeloo knew someone had saved his life that November day. But he never knew whom to thank; she had done all she could to keep her name a secret.

In fact, her identity wasn’t unknown until a coworker in whom she had confided nominated her for an award at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. Word got out, and on Tuesday, Boekeloo finally met a registered nurse named Dawn Bausone-Gazda.

Dr. Tom Levin, a cardiologist at Christ, said Boekeloo arrived at the emergency room that day “pretty much as good as dead.”

“Had he not had life-saving resuscitation in the field, he would not have survived to make it into the hospital,” Levin said.

Boekeloo and Bausone-Gazda both were overcome with emotion as they hugged during a news conference at the hospital.

“Thank you so much. You have no idea how I feel,” Boekeloo said as both dabbed their eyes.

Bausone-Gazda, a nurse for 25 years, said that type of lifesaving event “is the reason I became a nurse.”

“Thank you for helping me remember that,” she told him.

Bausone-Gazda actually met Boekeloo during his three-month hospital stay after his heart attack, but, after hearing his story, was too modest to tell him she was the nurse who saved him, said her best friend, Cheryl Wilson, also a nurse at the hospital.

Wilson nominated Bausone-Gazda for the hospital’s Mission, Values and Philosophy award, presented quarterly. Bausone-Gazda won, making her eligible for the employee of the year award — not that it matters much to her.

“I think anybody in my situation would have done the same thing. I was just in the right place at the right time for Gerald,” said Bausone-Gazda, of Burbank.

He was driving north in his Ford Taurus that day when he suffered the heart attack and drove into another car. She was driving south, saw the commotion, and stopped to help.

Boekeloo, 69, who lives in the Airway mobile home park on Cicero Avenue in Oak Lawn, was driving to the hospital because he didn’t feel well.

“I should’ve called 911. What the hell. I drove myself. Dummy me,” he said.

Bausone-Gazda, 48, was leaving the hospital, where she had been visiting her mother, then a patient.

Boekeloo, who has lost 30 pounds since the incident, did not have a history of heart trouble, but said an infection a few years ago left him with an enlarged heart.

“I guess it started getting weaker. But, jeez, I’m so blessed,” he said. “My brother has had a couple of operations and he should be bye-bye, too, and he’s still here. So I guess we’re tough. Not just us. You’ve got to put it on the doctors and nurses.”

Doctors installed a heart pump that allows Boekeloo to live a relatively normal life as he awaits a heart transplant, said Dr. Geetha Bhat, medical director for the Center for Heart Transplant and Assist Devices at Christ.

Boekeloo was sure to thank his heart surgeon, Dr. Tony Tatooles, who did not attend the news conference but did give Boekeloo permission to ride his beloved Kawasaki and Honda motorcycles after he was discharged.

Saving lives is old hat for Bausone-Gazda, who said she used CPR to save a heart attack victim during a flight from Las Vegas to Chicago about 20 years ago.

“The lesson learned is we all need to learn CPR,” Bhat said.



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