'Today, your sons and daughters are the faces of heroin'

Recovering addict tells parents it is their job to take action

(From May, 10, 2012)

Recovering heroin addict David Lee grew up in Indiana, in a town he described as being much like Orland Park.

A self-described "insecure geeky kid," he started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana when he was 15 years old. Lee's indulgence in illicit substances brought him out of his shell and made him popular with is classmates, he told an audience of more than 100 people last week at Sandburg High School in Orland Park.

"I graduated from high school in a town that looks like this one in northwest Indiana," Lee said. "A year before my graduation, I stood in a gym just like this one and became student council president. A year after that, I was the first kid in that small town - the first person, ever-to be arrested on a heroin charge."

Lee, now 41 and the CEO of Sober Solutions, which works to help drug addicts kick their habits, spoke May 2 at a symposium - organized by Orland Township and the Orland Park Police Department - intended to educate parents and high school students about the dangers of heroin and drug abuse. Speakers including Lee talked about the signs of abuse, and provided parents resources that can offer help for their children.

Lee spoke about himself and his brother, Kevin, who is a year younger and did not devolve into a drug addict. David and Kevin hung out the same group of friends in high school, and often attended the same parties, he said. Kevin was able to have an occasional drink, but alcohol and marijuana - and eventually heroin - became the focus of David's life.

"At age 15, I picked up my first drink, and I became popular," Lee said. "I was no longer the insecure, geeky kid. Now, I'm awesome. I loved it."

Lee abused drugs for 15 years, until he entered a rehabilitation program when he was 29 years old.

"I became a full blown drug addict, and I ended up homeless," Lee recalled. "I was a train wreck. I just went to a conference in San Diego with my new fianc

Marrs-Meyer salutes 'Forgotten War' vets

(From May 10. 2012)

The Korean War has been termed "The Forgotten War" or "The Unknown War," but an area American Legion post last weekend held an event with the intent to ensure the Americans who fought in the conflict are not forgotten and that their sacrifices are not unknown.

The war between the communist, China-supported Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the capitalist, U.S.-supported Republic of Korea took place from 1950 to 1953. By the time the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953, the conflict had claimed an estimated 2 million lives, many of them civilians.

To celebrate the bravery of surviving Korean War vets, the Marrs- Meyer American Legion Post 991, 10001 Depot Ave. in Worth, and its Women's Auxiliary last Sunday held its first-ever Korean War Veterans Recognition Luncheon. The event was inspired by a luncheon the Post held eight years ago this month to recognize World War II veterans and honor the dedication of the World War II memorial in Washington D.C.

Post 991 Women's Auxiliary President Loretta Boswell called Sunday's luncheon the "highlight of my presidency of the Auxiliary." Boswell and the event's planning committee worked for months to make the day of recognition special for the 37 veterans who attended. The program began with a welcome by Boswell, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and God Bless America. An invocation was led by the Rev. Wayne A. Basch, pastor of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepard., and the keynote speaker for the evening was Korean War Navy veteran Frank Deglomine.

Deglomine- and active member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Korean Veteran Association who served in the Navy from 1952 to 1955 - addressed the veterans and their 63 guests in an eloquent and moving speech in which he emphasized how nefarious war is. He reflected upon the price paid in human lives to protect freedom and choice for the Korean people, and pointed to how devastating the war was. He also lauded the veterans for having volunteered because it was "the right thing to do," not for personal conquest or for gain.

Deglomine followed his speech by showing a DVD presentation from the South Korean consulate, in which Korean citizens expressed their gratitude to the American people for their help. The luncheon concluded with the presentation of pins and certificates of recognition to each veteran.

Veterans were moved by the show of recognition, and everyone involved in executing the luncheon expressed their thanks and continued dedication to the United States military. Deglomine expressed the need for continued public support to all veterans, past and present, who gave much and have received little as they continue to serve the country. Continued public support was also encouraged by Boswell and her husband, Bob, a financial officer of Post 991.

For more information about the American Legion and Auxiliary call Bob Boswell at 254-3280 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

'Everyone loved her'

OL-Hometown mourns death of Kaylah Lentine

(From May 31, 2012)

The Oak Lawn-Hometown School District 123 community is mourning the passing of a popular student whose life was cut short less than a week before she was to graduate from eighth grade.

Kaylah Lentine, 14, of Hometown, died last Friday afternoon from multiple injuries stemming from a motor vehicle accident, according to the office of the Cook County medical examiner's office. District 123 held a moment of silence to honor Kaylah at Wednesday's eighth-grade commencement, and presented Kaylah's diploma to her family.

Kaylah was walking to school last Thursday when she was stuck by a pickup around 8:13 a.m. near the intersection of 93rdStreet/ Southwest Highway and Cicero Avenue in Oak Lawn, according to police. The Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School student was crossing Southwest Highway south just west of Cicero, police said.

Kaylah enjoyed music and was known as a talented artist and strong writer, said Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School Principal Paul Enderle. She was slated to receive a student leadership award the morning of her accident for her involvement in SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), in which she had assumed an active leadership role.

"She was a natural born mediator," said Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School French teacher Diane Merenda, Kaylah's homeroom teacher and declamation team coach. "She had a peaceful, discerning way of looking at things. She was very interesting to talk to.

"I don't mean to use a clich

And the story has come to a close

James Casey will open a new book after 20 years at Oak Lawn Library

(From May 17, 2012)

After 20 years as the head of the Oak Lawn Public Library, James Casey will come the end of June step down from his post.

Casey, 61, will work his last day at the library on June 29. He began working in the library sector in 1973 in Ohio, and came to Oak Lawn in 1992. He earned a bachelor's degree in history, with a minor in German, from LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and received a scholarship to attend library school at the State University of New York in Geneseo. After graduate school he worked in Cleveland for 10 years, and during that time worked toward his doctorate at Case Western University. He got his first job as a director at Pickaway County District Library in Circleville, Ohio, outside Columbus.

"I had to do almost every job in the library," Casey said. "I did the grant writing, budgeting, hired personnel, did the public relations, ran board meetings, cleaned the walls, unplugged toilets, and even killed bats."

Getting the job in Oak Lawn was a "glorious opportunity," Casey said. He and his wife, Diane, moved to Oak Lawn in 1992. Diane is a retired librarian who served as dean of the library at Governors State University for 10 years.

"We were glad to come to the greater Chicago area," Casey said. "Having been in a rural community [in Pickaway County], coming back to an urban environment was great."

Casey's favorite memories from his tenure as library director include the renovation and expansion project completed nearly 10 years ago. The $4.5 million, 16,000 square-foot expansion included a two story addition, meeting space, and glass walls to give patrons an unobstructed view of the Village Green to the north.

"It was a very exciting moment," Casey said. "We have seen advances in technology, too. We have upgraded our Internet and established a website. We didn't have the Internet 20 years ago - we still used a card catalogue."

Casey also helped create the library's local history unit and art gallery. He will miss working with the Friends of the Library, and the library's staff, board of trustees and volunteers.

"It is a real team effort here," Casey said. "This is a great job if you are fortunate enough to have it. The person who gets it will enjoy it."

Casey plans to do a lot of reading during his retirement, and he and his wife are planning several trips, he said. He also plans to volunteer in Oak Lawn community and at the church he and Diane attend in LaGrange.

Oak Lawn man meets his angel

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 CPR.

"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 today.

"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 said.

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 reintroduced.

"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.

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 heart.

"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."