Nurse saved his life after heart attack last year
(From July 19, 2012)
Tears came easier than words for Gerald Boekeloo when he met for the first
time the woman who saved his life.
Boekeloo was on Tuesday introduced to Dawn Bausone-Gazda, an Advocate Christ
Medical Center nurse who revived Boekeloo using CPR on after the Oak Lawn man
suffered a heart attack while driving last November. Boekeloo until Tuesday did
not even know his heroine's name - Bausone- Gazda left the scene of the accident
after bringing him back to life.
"I looked high and low and here I am ready to meet her," Boekeloo said
moments before his heroine's identity was revealed. "She's my guardian angel."
Boekeloo, 69, was driving to Advocate Christ last Nov. 19 because he was not
feeling well. Looking back, Boekeloo said he should have dialed 911. He suffered
a heart attack near 95th Street and Cicero Avenue, just blocks from Christ, but
managed to maneuver his car into the parking lot of White Castle, at the corner
of the busy intersection. There, Bausone-Gazda spotted Boekeloo lain on the
pavement, surrounded by people who had aided him out of the car.
Bausone-Gazda, 48, a Burbank resident and nurse for 25 years at Christ, said
she checked Boekeloo's pulse, and when she did not fell one began to administer
"I did what I was trained to do," Bausone-Gazda said. "After the paramedics
arrived I knew he was in good hands so I left."
The nurse left the scene without being identified.
Boekeloo died upon arrival at Christ Advocate, but was revived a second time
by hospital staff members. Cardiologist Thomas Levine credits his second
restoration to Bausone-Gazda's earlier work.
"I believe the quick and initial administration of CPR made it possible for
his lungs to revive," Levine said.
Boekeloo, who is on the heart donor recipient list, said he is doing well
"I wouldn't be here if it were not for [Bausone-Gazda]."
Boekello greeted Bausone- Gazda Tuesday with a card and bouquet of flowers,
but explains he will never be able to repay her.
"I could give her a $3 million and that still wouldn't be enough," Boekeloo
said. "I enjoyed life before, but now it's beautiful. All I can say is thanks."
Advocate Christ medical director for the Center of Heart Transplants, Geethat
Bhat said Boekeloo is very lucky to have run into Bausone-Gazda. Eightyfive
percent of people who suffer heart failure outside a hospital die, she said.
Boekeloo spent three months in the hospital and learned of his hero and the
events through hospital staff. He began searching for his unknown heroine
through police reports and hospital staff accounts, but was unsuccessful in
learning her identity.
Unbeknownst to Boekeloo, he and Bausone-Gazda had met once before. While he
was being treated at Christ, Bausone-Gazda was called to his room to cover for
another nurse who was unavailable. She figured out who he was as they began
taking about his heart attack.
"I didn't know who he was, and as we started talking I realized it was him,"
Bausone-Gazda told Boekeloo her account of the event, but chose not to tell
him who she was because she did not want to cause him any stress while he was
recovering. With the help of Shirl Wilson, a nurse at Advocate who knew both
parties were in the hospital, a reunion was set up and the two were
"When I got the call they had found her, I cried," Boekeloo said.
Bausone-Gazda said she is happy she and Boekeloo were reunited.
"This is the reason I become a nurse, thank you for reminding me," she told
Boekeloo has been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the
heart fails to pump blood to the rest of the body. Boekeloo already had a
defibrillator, but his condition was so dire the day he was brought to Christ
that he was determined to need a heart transplant, Bhat said. A patient can
spend months or even years waiting for a matching donor, so Bhat transplanted a
left ventricular assist device into Boekeloo's heart.
A ventricular assist device is a circulatory device commonly used in patients
who survive heart attacks or heart surgery. The device pumps blood for the heart
and acts as a temporary solution until Boekeloo can receive a heart transplant.
Boekeloo is now on the heart donor list, but could be waiting years for a new
"The device typically last for six to seven years," Bhat said. "It acts to
bridge the gap between diagnoses and surgery."
With advancements of the devices, first approved for use in the U.S. by the
FDA in 1994, the quality of life for patients with the device have improved
drastically over the last 10 years, Bhat said.
Bhat said Boekeloo's incident demonstrates the importance of knowing CPR, and
for people to be aware of their heart conditions.
"Everything worked out for him," Bhat said. "He would not have made it to me
without her help."