Throughout the OSF Ministry, we're blessed to witness different types of miracles every day. Some are major medical breakthroughs, others are simple moments of joy when we're able to make a patient smile. We invite you to explore the stories made possible by the generous gifts we receive from our faithful supporters. You'll find examples and confirmation of the hope, faith, generosity, and inspiration that exists here at OSF.  

Dave Curry: 26 Minutes Saved My Life

The expertise and timely care at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center saved me. Because of them, my wife and I get to enjoy many more years together with our family doing things we love and that is truly priceless.

So, how important is the difference between 26 and 90? Take it from someone who knows – It means life. It means my family, friends and neighbors can count on OSF Saint Anthony’s to be there when they need help. I am thankful that OSF Saint Anthony’s was there for me and my family – and through the generosity of our community, I trust they’ll be there for yours.

As a retiree, I was enjoying some of the best times of my life. My wife and I were appreciating time with our family and some of our favorite hobbies like showing off our 66 Chevy.

And then one morning I didn’t feel quite right.

You don’t get to be my age without a bad day or two, so I pushed it aside. But throughout the morning, I developed indigestion-type symptoms and then fatigue. I had no pain, so, yet again, I dismissed thoughts of anything serious. But as the minutes ticked by, my body felt completely drained.

And then pain started radiating down my back. Before I knew it, I was lying on the floor, sweating profusely. At that moment, I could no longer ignore everything I had been rationalizing. I was having a heart attack.

As I lay on the floor, my condition deteriorated rapidly. I knew I needed help right away. My wife loaded me into the car and raced the 10 minutes to OSF Saint Anthony’s Health Center.

During the car ride, I began to lose my vision and sounds became garbled. By the time we arrived, I was almost completely unresponsive.

The OSF Saint Anthony Emergency Medicine team immediately performed an EKG and notified the Cardiovascular Department. Within 12 minutes of my arrival, a cardiologist determined I was having a major heart attack. After 26 minutes, the Cardiovascular Team restored blood flow to my heart. It felt like someone had flipped my switch back on. Instantly, I could see, hear and speak as if nothing had happened.

Here is the amazing thing – the national average for hospitals to restore blood flow is 90 minutes. If that had been true in my situation, I’m not sure I would have survived.

Mike and Teresa Lutz

Story Courtesy of Peoria Journal Star written by Leslie Renken

When meeting Mike and Teresa Lutz’s four handsome boys for the first time, people frequently comment on the lack of girls.

Whenever that happens, 6-year-old Charlie Lutz starts talking about his little sister.

“He wants people to know that there were five children,” said Teresa during an interview in the family’s Dunlap home.

Photo Courtesy of Baillie Photography

Gianna Lutz would have been 4 years old in February. Diagnosed at 20 weeks with a fatal neural tube defect called anencephaly, she died in utero at 36 weeks. Her skull never formed and her brain was seriously damaged.

Though the first weeks after diagnosis were very painful for the Lutzes, the 16 weeks between diagnosis and death were absolutely precious. Mementos from that time are scattered around their home. A little hardcover book, a project Teresa started in the days following diagnosis, records that time in words and photographs. The book is so frequently viewed it’s starting to lose pages.

Termination of the pregnancy was offered after the Lutzes learned nothing could be done for their daughter. They didn’t even consider it.

“We are Catholic, and we believe that each life is precious. But even more than that, ending her life early wouldn’t have taken away the pain of losing her,” said Teresa. “It would have just taken away the little time we had with her, and robbed us of getting to know her.”

‘We weren’t going to be alone’

The morning following the diagnosis, Mike and Teresa met with Dr. Michael Leonardi at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center’s Maternal-Fetal Diagnostic Center.

“He did another ultrasound and confirmed what our OB had told us. When he started telling us our options, we cut him off. We told him that we were going to carry her to term, and he immediately switched gears and he said, ‘What are you going to name her?’”

It was an important moment, said Teresa.

“At that point he was validating her as our daughter. She wasn’t just ‘something wrong.’”

Leonardi is part of a team of physicians, nurses, counselors and support staff in the hospital’s Perinatal Hospice program.

“Perinatal Hospice is a movement across the country that’s been going on for a long time,” Leonardi explained during a recent interview at the hospital. “We realized that people with a prenatal diagnosis that’s going to be life-limiting need a different type of OB care. Usually families that are expecting are planning for the future — these families are planning a funeral.”

It’s a 180-degree perspective change that only a small percentage of prospective parents face, so most obstetricians aren’t equipped to deal with it. The Maternal-Fetal Diagnostic Center is where patients facing a dangerous pregnancy are referred, making it the natural home for the Perinatal Hospice program.

During that first visit with Dr. Leonardi, the Lutzes were given resources to help manage the difficult time. It was an extraordinary relief.

“We knew then that we weren’t going to be alone,” said Teresa. “That was the scariest thing, doing it all alone.”

Every case is different, from the medical issues to the emotions involved, so a whole team of specialists helps families assess the situation and formulate a plan. For parents who know their baby is going to die, memory-building is an important part of the process. Leonardi had the Lutzes come in for an ultrasound every two weeks — not only was he checking on the progress of the pregnancy, he was making photographs of Gianna that would be treasured forever. As time went by and the Lutzes better came to terms with the situation, the visits became fun for the family.

“He encouraged us to bring the boys,” said Teresa. At the time they had two boys, Ben, 4 , and Charlie, 2.

“We actually laughed a lot,” said Mike. “Dr. Leonardi let the boys play around with the ultrasound table. He always had candy for them and a Diet Coke for Teresa.”

Though the visits often revealed more issues with Gianna, Leonardi didn’t dwell on them, said Teresa.

“He always pointed out the good things about her. He always said how happy she looked, how comfortable she looked.”

An important aspect of Perinatal Hospice care is counseling. Pediatric supportive care counselors from the nearby Children’s Hospital are available to talk with any family member, young or old. They are even available years after the fact if issues re-surface.

At one point, Teresa spoke to a counselor with questions about discussing certain issues with her sons. Throughout the process, the Lutzes kept their boys informed — the day of the diagnosis Ben, who was sure the baby was a girl, eagerly met his returning parents at the door.

“We told him right away,” said Teresa. “We were so upset. Ben was really sad, but he understood. Sometimes he would talk to my belly and tell Gianna that she was gonna go to heaven.”

Though there was sorrow, there were fun times, too. Every Sunday, when Gianna turned a week older, the family had a little birthday party.

“We’d sing to her and blow out candles and have a little sweet,” said Teresa. “I think the boys liked the candles and the sweets.”

In many ways, those weeks of pregnancy seemed perfectly normal. Gianna’s tiny fists and feet could be felt kicking inside Teresa’s belly. The infant was quick to react when her brothers spoke to her, and she was always more active when Teresa ate certain foods.

“Baby Gianna loved Chinese food,” said Teresa. “We couldn’t say no to baby Gianna.”

At one point the family visited a professional photographer for a portrait. Everyone was smiling, and Teresa’s swelling belly was prominent beneath her white T-shirt.

“We didn’t know if she would be born alive, and we wanted a family portrait. She was still alive then,” she explained.

Making the boys partners in the process helped them understand and accept what was happening in their family. Shortly after Gianna died, Ben started incorporating his sister into artwork.

“For the longest time Ben would include her in family drawings — she was always up in the sky,” said Teresa. “It’s a healthy way of dealing with it. I hear people say ‘I couldn’t put my children through that,’ but I think it taught them love.”

Comforted by the long goodbye

As the due date grew closer, members of the Perinatal Hospice program helped the Lutzes formulate a plan for every possible outcome.

“It was important to us that, if she was born alive, she be baptized,” said Teresa. “And it was important for the boys to meet her. And if she survived longer, we wanted to take her home to die.”

In the end, however, baby Gianna had her own plans. On a Friday, Teresa noticed Gianna wasn’t moving.

“We tried everything to get her to move,” she said. “The boys talked to her, and I ate some sugar and we poked her. We said if she doesn’t move by morning we’d call Dr. Leonardi.”

On Saturday morning, Dr. Leonardi was on his way to St. Louis with his family, but he turned around to meet the Lutzes at the hospital.

“He did an ultrasound, and I remember he turned the screen around and said ‘This is her heart, and it’s not beating.’ And he held my hand while I cried. He was on one side, and Mike was on the other.”

Gianna Therese Lutz was born at 4:08 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012, the same time and date recorded on her death certificate. Dr. Leonardi delivered her, and both sets of grandparents were waiting to meet their granddaughter. The family spent lots of time with tiny Gianna, moments that were photographed and printed in the little book Teresa made.

In the years since losing Gianna, the Lutz family has grown by two — Dominic, 3, and big, strapping John Paul, who, at 16 months, is already trying to keep up with his brothers.

Each pregnancy has brought with it a certain measure of fear, so Dr. Leonardi keeps a vigilant eye on his patient.

“Dr. Leonardi has become our permanent obstetrician,” said Teresa. An expert at catching anomalies on the ultrasound, Leonardi’s care has been very reassuring.

The Lutzes say if issues arise in future pregnancies they will deal with it exactly as they did with Gianna. Rather than prolonging the pain, carrying Gianna until her natural end helped the family come to terms with the tragedy. The Perinatal Hospice program provided support to make the experience as positive as possible.

“We had time to prepare,” said Mike. “It was such a blessing to find out ahead of time.”

People sometimes choose termination out of a lack of support and knowledge, said Leonardi.

“People always think the child is in pain, and they are not,” said Leonardi. “You can see it on the ultrasound.”

And some believe that early termination will reduce emotional suffering as well, but Teresa believes it only makes things worse. She points to a 2014 study by Duke University that surveyed a group of parents who lost children to anencephaly:

“Women who terminated reported significantly more despair, avoidance and depression than women who continued the pregnancy. Organizational religious activity was associated with a reduction in grief in both women and men. ... There appears to be a psychological benefit to women to continue the pregnancy following a lethal fetal diagnosis ...”

The long goodbye helped carry the family through the pain of losing Gianna, a pain that couldn’t be avoided.

“People want to avoid suffering, but when you love people, you will sometimes suffer,” said Teresa. “You can’t avoid it. The only other choice is not to love.”

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter, @LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.

Dusten

When a car accident put Dusten in a life-threatening situation, OSF knew that every second counted. Our OSF Life Flight team responded instantly and transported him back to our team that was ready to go above and beyond.

Connor

Connor Fisher knows what it’s like to witness philanthropy in action. He’s the big brother to three siblings born prematurely, requiring special treatment to thrive. Connor says he’s grateful for the doctors and nurses at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for nursing each of his siblings to health. Thanks to the resources available at Children’s Hospital of Illinois, Connor is able to play with, teach, and share many smiles with his loved ones.

Now he’s giving back, with the click of a mouse.

Derby Chase

Durward "Derby" Chase of Gladstone, Michigian experienced what felt like painful heartburn while hunting one year. He recalls leaving camp, driving to his son's home and collapsing. Family members drove him to the Emergency Department at OSF St. Francis, where staff immediately went to work. Blood was drawn for tests and heart monitors were attached. Fifteen minutes later Derby went into cardiac arrest.

"I don't remember what happened, but my wife said the room immediately filled with staff," said Derby. He was revived and said his earliest memory was waking up to find a nurse standing at the foot of the bed who teased "don't do that again!"

Once stabilized, Derby was sent by ambulance to a regional care facility. The nurse who had been by his side when he awoke made the trip with him in the ambulance, explaining he could expect to happen during this next phase of this treatment. After surgery to place a stent in one of his arteries, Derby returned home and began cardiac rehabilitation through OSF Rehabilitation Services.

Derby's initial care was all done in the OSF St. Francis Hospital Emergency Department, which has since been remodeled and expanded to more than twice its original size thanks to a generous $5 million gift from the John & Melissa Besse Foundation. During an open house for the new emergency department, Derby had an opportunity to visit the renovated facility and thank and hug his caregivers.

"It was nice to see the doctor and nurses. They treat you like you're more than just a patient. The new ER is just beautiful; it's state of the art, and the staff are first class. I don't know if people in the area know how good we have it," he said.

A Special Birthday

Vicki Barber's father Fred was known for being…as she fondly puts it, 'a tough cookie.'

The 75 year old lived a life focused on family-- his wife and four daughters, friends, and hard work.

"Dad was strong, he always pulled through," Vicki explained. "But in recent years he had heart problems and suffered a stroke that caused him to lose mobility."

Vicki's mother Sue became his sole caregiver at home, until the summer of 2013.

"Our hospice care nurse Susan talked to mom about the hospice home. Dad's condition was worsening, it was getting difficult for mom to be the sole caregiver for him at home," said Vicki. "Susan's compassion for my family's needs was incredible. She got the ball rolling."

The same day the conversation took place, Fred arrived at the OSF Richard L. Owens Hospice Home. From the moment her family stepped through the doors, Vicki says she finally felt at peace.

"I remember being greeted by Dr. Phillip Olsson the Executive Director of OSF Home Care. He warmly acknowledged me as Fred's daughter," she recalled. "It's at that point I realized nothing else mattered. It was about dad, our family, and our love."

Clasping HandsAs she thinks back to that emotional day, her eyes fill with tears.

Tears of relief.

Tears of sadness.

Tears of love.

"It meant so much. After the long days and nights, the weeks of care, the constant worry for my mom…the nurses approached her, looked her in the eyes, and said, "You're tired. It's our turn to be the caregivers now. You love on him, kiss him, and just be his wife now."

Fred's personal room at the hospice home gave the entire family enough space to visit comfortably and even sleep there.

"It was huge," Vicki describes. "With so many of us, it impressed me that each time a nurse, a pastoral care member, or a doctor entered the room, they always acknowledged dad first. Then they greeted us. While my dad for the most part was incoherent, they always treated him with the dignity and respect he deserved."

Vicki's family stayed at the hospice home for five days.Dad and Mom

"It was incredible," she said. "I know that sounds odd to say, but we felt calm there. Death and dying was an 'unknown' for our family. I think we were in denial because dad had bounced back from heart attacks and strokes before."

But this time was different.


Vicki says the nurses held their hands, and guided them through. When Fred's body began to show additional signs of the dying process, staff members spoke with the family about the changes.

"If we needed spiritual support, a hug, a prayer--they were there. They encouraged us to accept this process, to reminisce with dad, to speak directly to him--even if he wasn't awake. All the while, they continued to make him comfortable, and meet his every need."

On August 15th, Vicki celebrated her birthday at the Hospice Home.

"We had been going through so much; I forgot it was my birthday! But the staff made it special. They brought in a cake for me; we ate in dad's room. While his time was nearing, I came to peace that even if dad passed on my birthday--I'd be okay sharing this day with him for the rest of my life."

Fred passed away two days later.

"It was hard… it always is," said Vicki. "But those five days dad spent in the hospice home, we could focus on being a family. We reminisced, laughed, and enjoyed each other. The staff's care and support gave us that relief, that comfort we wouldn't have had if mom and dad had still been at their house."

Half a year later, Vicki continues to visit hospice home. To her, it's a place of hope for people to be together, to forget their troubles, and focus on what's most important in life…the love of family.

"I am forever changed by this place, by the people here," she said.

From Wheelchair to Basketball in 10 Days

It's been called a miraculous recovery; a man playing basketball ten days after experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke. Tom Cotelleso was outside letting the family cat out when he felt something was wrong. Tom started calling for his wife, Yvonne, when he lost his sight.

Tom was rushed to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center to the care of Illinois Neurological Institute Comprehensive Stroke Center and Dr. Andrew Tsung. Tom had a six centimeter hemorrhage on the right side of his brain causing his left side to be completely paralyzed.

An MRI showed pressure on the motor cortex of his brain. The pressure was pushing, but had not destroyed brain tissue. Using the new NICO BrainPath technology, which acts like a GPS system for the brain and allows a surgeon to go deeper than traditional surgery would safely, Dr. Tsung and his team were able to remove the hemorrhage.

Few patients ever fully recover from a stroke as massive as Tom's. Not only did Tom recover, he amazed his physical therapist with his movement and progress just days after his life saving surgery. He is now walking with a straight cane, walking up a flight of stairs, and tossing a basketball around with his physical therapist. This type of progression usually takes years if a patient is fortunate enough to fully recover. Tom was doing it within ten days.

Because Illinois Neurological Institute has consistently demonstrated it is on the cutting edge of neurological health care, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center was one of ten hospitals to first get this next generation technology. Dr. Tsung and the INI team had a major impact in the life of Tom Cotelleso. Your impact is just as real because of your financial support of the OSF Endowment. Because of you, excellence in cutting edge health care will continue to help OSF change the lives of those we care for.