DONOR SPOTLIGHT

The word “philanthropy” is a combination of two ancient Greek words: philos (love) and anthropos (humankind).  This translates to mean “the love of humankind”.  In today’s world, philanthropy has come to mean giving of oneself to benevolent causes, but such an act of kindness is certainly due to an innate love for and desire to help other human beings.  People show love for others in many different ways, and they exhibit philanthropy in many different ways.

We at Children’s Hospital of Illinois are humbled daily by the inspirational stories of people who follow a passion to help others and positively impact the world around them. These philanthropists are everyday people who find joy in going above and beyond to help us serve our patients with unsurpassed quality healthcare. We’re honored to share with you stories of some of the donors who have touched our hearts. Each one is a blessing – a miracle – for which we are unspeakably grateful.

Feature Story

Paying it Forward: Cardiologist Inspires Patient to Go Above and Beyond

The human heart can be broken, mended, in need of attention, or bursting with love.  Sixty-nine year old Gail Vineyard knows what that's like.

"When I was a child my lips would turn blue when I was tired…I couldn’t even take gym class!” she remarked.

Growing up in the 1950’s, Gail says doctors had a tough time trying to solve her medical mystery.

“They said it was a heart murmur…that I’d outgrow it,” Gail explained.

It wasn’t until age 25; when she fainted at home--her family finally got some answers.   Donor Spotlight | Gail Vineyard and Dr. Albers

“The doctor sent me to a heart specialist at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center,” said Gail.  “That’s when I met Dr. William Albers.”

Shortly after encountering the cardiologist, her life began to change.

“He found I had a hole in my heart!  That was part of the problem,” said Gail.  “He diagnosed me with Tetralogy of Fallot.”

This rare, yet complex congenital heart defect occurs in about five out of every 10,000 babies.  It leads to oxygen poor blood-- causing shortness of breath, bluish skin, and an irregular heartbeat.

“In 1969, Dr. Albers put a cardiac cathedar in my heart to find out what was wrong,” Gail explained.  “Then in 1970, I had open heart surgery at the University of Illinois in Chicago where they patched the hole and widened the valve.”

Gail had a streak of good luck following the surgery.

Her health improved, and she even landed a job in the accounting department at our hospital.

“Worked there for 33 years,” she proudly stated.  “I even put Dr. Albers down as a reference!”

To Gail, this longtime cardiologist is more than just a physician.  He’s an educator and a friend. 

“Dr. Albers explained details to me; he took time to make sure I understood my condition.  He cared for so many adults, but he always made time to answer my questions.”

One day, while working at the hospital, Gail felt her heart racing.

“I bumped into Dr. Albers and mentioned it to him,” she said.  “He took my pulse in the middle of the hallway!”

Thanks to the care and compassion of Dr. Albers, Gail Vineyard has lived a life rich with adventure.

She’s traveled across the country--visiting all 50 states, and journeyed overseas.

“I’ve taken an African safari, been to Israel three times, and vacationed in Great Britain, Italy, Austria, Greece plus Angel Falls Venezuela!”

But Gail didn’t forget about home, our hospital, or the doctors and patients in it.

“I started donating to the Children’s Hospital of Illinois Telethon after my dad passed away of liver cancer,” she explained.  “He used to say, ‘Why do I have cancer?  Everyone else in my family has heart disease!’”

Her frequent gifts didn’t go unnoticed.

“Dr. Albers had been working the phones at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois Telethon.  I had moved to Arizona, but he called me to ask if I’d donate,” Gail explained.  “I did.  I give back now to thank him for helping me.”

Gail knows she’s not the only heart patient whose life has been changed for the better under Dr. Albers care.

“It felt like it though,” she said.  “I know he served countless patients, but he always made my health a priority.”

After many years at OSF, Dr. Albers retired in January of 2014.

Gail says she’s thankful to have been his patient, because like so many others…while her heart beats to a different tune it’s still filled with love.

Love for the care doctors and staff bring to the hospital each day.

Love for the patients being treated.

Love for the future of medicine and the endless possibilities it provides.

“That’s why I give,” she said.

Check out other stories of giving and love featured on our Foundation Blog.