Vickroy: Good spouse helps you get to heaven
DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-5982 February 10, 2012 5:22PM
Karen and Michael O’Mara work together at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
‘Neither of us could imagine a day without the other.’
on her marriage with Michael
Updated: March 13, 2012 8:03AM
As another Valentine’s Day approaches, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves that as nice as candy, flowers and dinner reservations may be, true love does not require any of that.
In fact, sometimes it’s expressed through sutures, intravenous lines and long, long hours.
“It’s not chocolate or diamonds or material things that make a marriage last,” Karen O’Mara said. “Love is giving of yourself and being invested in each other’s happiness.”
Karen and her husband, Michael O’Mara, both physicians trained in emergency medicine, will be married 40 years in June.
For much of that time, they worked side by side in the emergency department at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park.
Today, Mike is head of emergency medicine there. Karen works part time in the department, as well as in critical care and internal medicine.
“Neither of us could imagine a day without the other,” Karen said.
But if they had based their relationship on artificialities such as gifts or amount of time spent together, “We’d have been in trouble a long time ago,” she said.
Both grew up in Alsip. He attended Lane School, she Stony Creek.
They met when Mike was on Karen’s brother’s Little League team.
Each graduated eighth grade as class valedictorian. Both went on to Richards High School, but they didn’t start dating until college.
Mike did two years in the Air Force Academy; she went straight from high school to the University of Illinois at Chicago. He eventually headed to UIC as well.
They were married in Blue Island while they were undergrads, which was somewhat unusual back then, she said.
And they were accepted to Chicago Osteopathic Medical School together — a rare thing for married couples at the time.
Mike found work at Little Company right away after graduating, but, times and gender biases being what they were, Karen had to look longer for an opportunity to practice her sub-specialty. She eventually was hired at Little Company as well.
They lived for a time in Chicago’s Kenwood community, then Orland Park, then in a condo at Lake Point Tower in Chicago, which Karen said was wonderful because there was no lawn to tend to and no home improvement projects to consume their time.
“When we got home from work, it was pure family time,” she said.
They took advantage of the city’s cultural amenities, sending sons Michael Jr. and Cameron to museum camp, the Lyric Opera and Mass at Holy Name Cathedral.
Working side by side never was an issue, she said.
“We’re both professionals. We have this career thing down cold,” she said. “We don’t compete. Rather, we complement each other.”
They also accept the expectations of their profession.
“We understood the long study hours during med school. We’ve always known what was occupying each other’s time,” she said.
And when Mike excuses himself from this very interview because the emergency department is packed with patients, Karen understands and offers to continue on his behalf.
She said it’s nice to work together, to share the same stressors, some of which were enough to break the marriages of other physicians.
“It’s not unusual for a doctor’s spouse to feel neglected,” she said.
True love is understanding and accepting all of that, she said.
“True love is being involved in each other’s careers, being involved in community. It’s raising children and worrying about each other’s patients. Those are the things that bind you,” she said.
It helps that they also share many of the same hobbies and interests.
They own a farm in northwestern Illinois, where they raise grass-fed, free-range cattle and grow grapes for winemaking.
“Physicians don’t talk about retiring, rather about starting a parallel career,” she said, chuckling. “This is just an extension of the science side of us.”
They also are deeply religious, believing that marriage, and all unions, are rooted in the church and should be recognized by that institution.
Karen said: “Good relationships should be celebrated. A good spouse won’t let you go down the wrong path. A good spouse will help you get to heaven.”