Accident victim gets second chance at life

Accident victim gets second chance at life

Gerald “Jack” Boekeloo’s amazing story is like something out of a fairy tale, complete with a distressed victim, a modest heroine and even a white castle, so to speak.

Boekeloo, now 70, a retired army specialist and machinist, suffered a massive heart attack in November 2011 while driving. His vehicle careened into a parked car near the White Castle at 95th Street and Cicero Avenue in Oak Lawn, Ill.

Boekeloo almost died at the scene until an unknown heroine immediately administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). When the ambulance arrived, she left the scene without being identified and launched the mystery of who saved Gerald Boekeloo’s life.

“If it weren’t for the Good Samaritan who acted swiftly and correctly administered CPR, Gerald would not have made it,” says Dr. Thomas Levin, cardiologist with Advocate Medical Group and Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.  “Although he ‘died’ again upon arriving at Christ, I believe the initial and quick administration of CPR made it possible for his lungs to revive again.”

In February 2012, Boekeloo had a ventricular assist device (VAD) implanted to support his weak heart and, ever since, has been recuperating and growing stronger. But the magic doesn’t stop there.

Unexpected reunion
That July, nurses Dawn Bausone-Gazda and Cheryl Wilson worked together during a busy shift. Like any hectic time, nurses will tend to patients other than their own. Bausone-Gazda assisted taking care of one of Wilson’s patients, Gerald Boekeloo. Bausone-Garza recalled him talking about a person who gave him CPR the day of his accident, and she realized the woman in the story was her. After telling Wilson about this fateful conversation, she decided to reveal her identity to Boekeloo, but not then. The fairy godmothers at Christ Medical Center worked their magic to coordinate a reunion that no one could forget.

Boekeloo finally met his guardian angel in front of a crowd of more than 200 people during a news conference at Christ Medical Center. Boekeloo and Bausone-Gazda had a tearful embrace that started a beautiful friendship.

Jack reunites with the nurse who saved his life.

Jack reunites with the nurse who saved his life.

New chapter begins
After receiving his VAD, Boekeloo underwent continuous treatment for his heart condition while waiting for a heart transplant. Boekeloo, Wilson and Bausone-Gazda have since become family, calling him their “Uncle Jack.”

The doctors at Christ Medical Center made sure this bond would last longer than anyone thought. On April 13, 2013, Boekeloo underwent his heart transplant.

“The heart is a scarce resource,” says Dr. William Cotts, cardiologist at Christ Medical Center. “To get to this point, it takes a lot of work. Granted, he’s been through a lot along the way.”

Boekeloo received a new heart and began a new chapter of his life right as he turned 70.

“I feel great,” said Boekeloo before his discharge. “I wish everybody had this feeling.”

Bausone-Gazda and Wilson cared for Boekeloo after his transplant, and his discharge day was bittersweet. Without a dry eye in the room, Boekeloo expressed gratitude and comfort to his lifesaver.

The fairy tale came true in a way no one expected. Bausone-Gazda and Boekeloo will forever have an irreplaceable bond that will last longer than the stroke of midnight.

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  1. Wow.. Miracles really do happen!

  2. I work with Dawn and this is an amazing story! Dawn is an awesome nurse and she is always giving! Gerald is a wonderful person as well and we are so happy that he and Dawn crossed paths at the right moment!

  3. Julie Nakis

    What a touching story! After once meeting Gerald , I could tell how much he loved life and how grateful he was to Dawn. I wish him a life of health and happiness!

  4. So amazing they were able to reconnect!! And what an amazing friendship made for life!

  5. Great Story- and no surprise Dawn was behind it- as she is a great person!

  6. Dawn is a very caring person. So glad they met. Great job Dawn you have a new best friend.

  7. What an incredible story!

  8. Kristin Casarez August 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm · Reply

    This story gives me chills! How amazing! Great job Dawn!

  9. This was truly an amazing story, almost unbelievable!! Dawn you are truly an inspiration to all nurses and what nursing is about. So excited for Jack.

  10. This is such an inspiring story! Dawn was his guardian angel that day and was meant to be there to help. Dawn and Jack have made a lifelong connection and it was so great to see it come full circle. She is so humble about the experience and recognition, but those of us who work with her know how special she is!

  11. This is such a wonderful story! I’m so thrilled at how it all worked out so beautifully. He was saved and then was lucky enough to get a heart transplant too. I’m so happy for Jack – he’s such a sweet man and also for Dawn – she is such a wonderful and humble person. We are lucky to have her here at Christ Hospital as a great nurse and friend!

  12. Michelle Maureen August 13, 2013 at 2:32 am · Reply

    Beautiful gesture Dawn, truly touching. Especially – ” When the ambulance arrived, she left the scene without being identified and launched the mystery of who saved Gerald Boekeloo’s life.”

    Crossing paths.. Indeed was God sent ANGEL and SAVIOUR through Dawn for Jack. Highly commendable!!

  13. Dezaree Pearson August 25, 2013 at 9:23 pm · Reply

    Truly amazing to see how one act of kindness was an open door to save & touch someone’s life. So honored to work with everyday heroes.

  14. Wonderful story. Advocate Christ is a life saving and healing place.

  15. Great story thank God for second chances.

  16. Amazing, very touching story. So grateful to know Jack is truly a walking miracle he was touched by an angel and saved by grace.

  17. Great story. I salute all nurses and doctors for their selfless acts of care.

  18. Beautiful article.

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About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.