Neighbors Caring for Neighbors for 50 Years

1953: A Snapshot of Life

Dwight D. Eisenhower was U.S. President and Martin H. Kennelly served as Chicago's mayor. The Korean War had just ended and Time Magazine selected the recently crowned Queen Elizabeth II as "Woman of the Year." In medical news, the first open heart surgery was successfully performed in Philadelphia and the polio vaccine was administered for the first time. O'Hare Airport was under construction and the Chicago Cubs signed Ernie Banks, the team's first black player. Houses continued to be built outside the city limits, adding to the post-World War II suburban sprawl. And on November 1, 1953, Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago, dedicated the newly built Resurrection Hospital.

A Vision for the Future

At the turn of the century, four Sisters of the Resurrection arrived from Rome, establishing their first mission in the United States in Chicago. In 1920, they purchased 52 acres of farmland on the far northwest side of Chicago, commonly known as Anderson's Onion Farm, paying $250,000 for the property. Sister Anne Strzelecka, C.R., predicts that one day a hospital will be built there.

In the 1940s, the Sisters began planning for a hospital to meet the health care needs of residents on Chicago's northwest side and surrounding suburbs. Until that time, the Sisters had focused on their teaching ministry, establishing schools to serve the many immigrant families making Chicago their home. "We were responsive to community needs," says Sister Clara Frances Kusek, C.R. "It was persons from the community who asked the Sisters to build a hospital. The Sisters, without any healthcare experience, rose to the challenge with a sense of stewardship and ministry."

Neighbors Caring for Neighbors

To advance their plans, the Sisters rallied civic and religious leaders, physicians and community residents. Some thought the area was too undeveloped; others believed lack of public transportation would pose a problem. But the legacy of "neighbors caring for neighbors" had begun, and soon many lay people had united with the Sisters in a spirit of commitment to the new endeavor. "The neighbors encouraged us to build a hospital," says Sister Bonaventure Kusek, C.R. "They were with us right along, and we remained in touch with them."

By 1951, blueprints were completed for the four-story, 180-bed hospital. Construction moved forward, but soaring costs put the proposed $1 million project at $4 million, requiring community leaders and a newly formed Women's Auxiliary to embark on a successful fundraising campaign.

A Christ-Centered Healing Ministry

There was a flurry of activity in preparing for the dedication of the new Resurrection Hospital on November 1, 1953. Among the many guests was Mother Teresa Kalstein, C.R., Superior General of the Sisters of the Resurrection, who had come from Rome for the celebration. Late in the evening of October 31, Sister Mary Paul Schultz, C.R., recalls how she and Sister Mary Thecla, C.R., realized they had not yet asked for her blessing. "Even though it was very late, we went to her room and asked for her blessing on our new ministry. She graciously complied, despite the fact she was already in her bedclothes!" The next day, Samuel Cardinal Stritch presided at the dedication of the new hospital. "I remember that day," says Sister Bonaventure. "There was a long line of people waiting to take a tour of the hospital, even in the cold weather. I wondered, as I saw all the empty beds, how we would ever fill up the hospital and be able to keep all the employees busy." On November 3, the doors officially opened, staffed by 112 physicians, 250 employees and Sisters who worked in 24 different departments. Sister Gregory Krzak, C.R., was the first administrator, known for nurturing the community's support to build a hospital. Sister Clara Frances remembers the first days as well. "I was the supervisor of Radiology at the time. I had the privilege of taking the first radiograph, one of a knee that showed a cyst. I remember thinking that this was a sign of all the diagnoses we would be making and all the conditions we would be able to address that would help our patients to better health."

The first patient, Mrs. Dorothy Linneweh of Arlington Heights, was admitted on November 5 by Dr. Theodore Renz, obstetrician. The following day, she gave birth to Mary Celine, the hospital's first baby, named after Mother Celine, foundress of the Sisters of the Resurrection.

While the Sisters prided themselves on providing for the community's needs, there were a few exceptions. "Shortly after we opened the hospital, someone brought a horse to the emergency department for care," laughs Sister Bonaventure, remembering how rural the area was at the time.

In 1956, with the very real threat of polio, the staff immunizes more than 4,000 community residents with the Salk vaccine. By 1958, volunteers had contributed a total of 126,455 hours of service. Long-time Auxiliary member Loretta Olech says her life has been enriched by the rewards of volunteering and the wonderful friendships she has made at the hospital over the years. "As a volunteer, you develop a sense of compassion for others," says Mrs. Olech, "and it promotes understanding. We're that added extra 'helping hand.'" A prized keepsake is a volunteer ID card signed by Sister Gregory. "I look forward to going to the hospital," she says of her 38 years of volunteering. "I would do it all again."

The 1960s: Planning for the Largest Expansion

"In the early years, we were the trauma center of Northwest Chicago and the suburbs," says Sister Mary Paul Schultz, C.R. "I was the supervisor of the Emergency Room at that time, working closely with Dr. Richard Buckingham. We only had one room with space for two stretchers and were overcrowded all the time. Chicago, county and state police all brought us accident cases."

Resurrection Hospital continued to add new physical facilities, services and staff to keep pace with technology and a growing population. During that decade, doctors delivered the most babies in the hospital's 50-year history. "We responded to the needs as they surfaced," says Sister Bonaventure. "The community came to us - they had faith in us--and we initiated services as they arose, such as the emergency department, obstetrical and newborn care and an intensive care unit."

The hospital launched its own fully integrated television and radio network in 1962, making it the first U.S. hospital to use closed circuit television to inform and entertain patients. A four-bed coronary care unit was opened in 1967, marking the beginning of the hospital's long-term commitment to cardiac care. Two years later, the hospital broke ground for a $20.9 million project that would include a five-story patient care wing and a services building with a new trauma center, diagnostic and treatment center, expanded lab facilities, eight surgical suites and recovery rooms, radiological facilities, enlarged intensive care unit and the welcome addition of air conditioning.

The 1970s: Celebrating 25 Years of Compassionate Care

In 1970, Sister Bonaventure Kusek, C.R., was named Resurrection Hospital's second administrator. It was a decade of continued growth and expansion to meet the area's growing health care needs. Actively working to support the hospital's growth, the Auxiliary announced that it had exceeded $1 million in gifts in 1971. An important teaching goal was reached that same year with the signing of a ten-year teaching affiliation agreement with the Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine. Construction on the largest expansion project to date was completed in 1972, with Archbishop of Chicago John Cardinal Cody presiding at the blessing of the new 420-bed medical complex. In 1973, in order to serve Chicago Fire Department helicopters, a landing pad was completed near the emergency department entrance. The following year, Resurrection Hospital was designated as an area-wide trauma center and trained its first group of Chicago Fire Department paramedics.

"I've literally grown up with Resurrection," says employee Linda Andrews, born at the hospital in the 1950s. "My parents live two blocks away, so I attended Resurrection High School and worked as a hospital candystriper. In 1972, I was part of a benefit talent show held to raise money for the south end of the hospital." While working in the Patient Financial Services Department, she met her future husband Vince, who also continues to be employed at the hospital.

As the hospital grew, more room was needed. In 1975, a new Professional Building opened, a six-floor structure adjacent to the hospital, offering convenient access between physician offices and hospital services.

In 1978, to celebrate the 25 th anniversary, a gala was held at the Conrad Hilton Hotel. At that milestone, the 442-bed hospital was staffed by 25 Sisters, more than 1,500 employees and 200 medical staff members. In 1979, for the first time, Resurrection Hospital had a father and son practicing on its medical staff at the same time when Dr. Edwin Adamski, Jr., internal medicine, was appointed. His father, Dr. Edwin Adamski, Sr., was a family practioner.

The 1980s: Responding to Change

Starting off the decade, the first four residents graduated from the hospital's Family Practice Residency program: Drs. Manobar Bhandarkar, Dr. Pramod Patel, Dr. Gerald Casey and Dr. Sandar Raj. In 1981, the hospital began operating under a new corporate structure: Resurrection Health Care. That year, the hospital reinforced its commitment to cancer care by purchasing a new radiotherapy linear accelerator. With the most advanced equipment and a highly skilled team, the hospital provided the latest care in the detection and treatment of cancer. The following year, the $8.6 million Quality of Life expansion was completed, adding a specialized imaging and nuclear medicine department; new cancer center and expanding the total bed capacity to 454 beds. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in August for the new chilc Care Center for preschool-age children of hospital employees.

In 1988, an affiliation agreement brought Resurrection Hospital and nearby John F. Kennedy Medical Center (later Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center) into what had become the largest single healthcare system serving Chicago's Northwest Side and suburbs. In 1989, Sister Donna Marie Wolowicki, C.R., was appointed CEO of the newly renamed Resurrection Medical Center, becoming the hospital's third administrator. Sister Bonaventure continued as president of Resurrection Health Care, a position she would hold until 1993.

One is Sister Donna Marie's most vivid memories is of the August 1989 flood that caused the hospital to be evacuated when electrical power was lost and closed for a week. "At a time of crisis, the genuine goodness and compassion of healthcare workers really reaches its highest level," she says. "Teamwork, dedicated vigilance over each patient by the staff, especially during the evacuation, was beyond anything I have ever experienced. Everyone pitched in to ensure the comfort and safety of the patients."

The 1990s: Pioneers in Medicine

Resurrection Medical Center moved to the forefront of heart care with the expansion of key cardiac services, while responding as well to the growing demand for outpatient medical care. In 1990, the first cardiac catheterization laboratory was opened, and surgeons performed the hospital's first open heart surgery three years later. By 1994, the RMC was performing the highest number of angioplasties in Chicago, and the second highest in the state. The open heart surgery program soon expanded from coronary bypass surgery to valve replacement surgery and coronary stent procedures.

The Family Birthplace was unveiled in 1991, with 17 labor-delivery-recovery-postpartum rooms to accommodate patients in a home-like environment. Physical rehabilitation was another growing area and a comprehensive 30-bed rehab unit opened that same year. In line with changes in the delivery of medical care, a new outpatient services building and outpatient surgery center were built.

In 1997, recognizing a 50-year partnership with the Auxiliary, the Sisters held a special Mass and luncheon for its members, saluting them for their efforts throughout the years. In July, a five-foot tall hand carved statue of the Risen Jesus was unveiled at the dedication of the new lobby and admitting areas, welcoming all with his outstretched arms.

With continued growth, the Sisters remained focused on providing state-of-the-art care, responding to community needs and offering a compassionate environment. "Our Catholic health care ministry has evolved to be a high tech and high touch ministry," says Sister Donna Marie. "We strive to provide the latest and best technology, and at the same time, we strive to bring the message of hope and God's love to our patients and their families by the way we care for them. Our spiritual services staff has grown over the years, adding ethicists to help patients and families with difficult decisions. We've partnered with the local parishes to help bring spiritual care to every patient who wishes it, and we provide spiritual training for our staff so that the human heart and soul are ministered to at the same time that medical care is delivered." Dr. Carrie Jaworski agrees. "I was born at Resurrection, and as a child, this is where we came for emergency care. Having grown up in this area, I saw the hospital expand into a medical center. The Sisters have done an excellent job of keeping up with the latest technology, while still providing a warm touch."

The New Millennium and Beyond

Great advances were made in the RMC cardiac program during 2000, with surgeons using a new technique to perform minimally invasive open-heart surgery for the first time. Sister Donna Marie unveiled the honorary "Resurrection Way" sign at Talcott and Oriole Avenues in a special dedication ceremony. Special celebrations marked the Sisters of the Resurrection's 100 th anniversary of their ministry in the United States. The following year, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth would join with the Resurrection Sisters as co-sponsors of the Resurrection Health Care ministry.

"I think the most important thing that happened during the last 50 years was the growth," says Sister Clara Frances. "First, with Resurrection Retirement Community opening in 1978, then the acquisition of Resurrection Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in 1980 and then the incorporation into Resurrection Health Care in 1981. The vision to operate retirement communities and nursing homes and to grow into a system was a vision whose time had come, but it needed courage and risk-taking in order for the growth to happen."

In 2002, RMC became the first community hospital in Chicago to use Zevalin, a new radioactive drug to treat cancer patients. The first brachytherapy procedure was successfully performed, a minimally invasive surgery that delivers a precise dose of radiation to coronary lesions. "Over the years," says Sister Donna Marie, "we have developed one of the most modern and high-tech diagnostic and imaging centers, where we provide almost any conceivable imaging procedure - including two MRI units, three CT units, a PET scanner, high quality ultrasound and the latest in radiation therapy."

RMC installed a new MRI unit and purchased a CO 2 heart laser for open heart surgery procedures during 2003. In addition, RMC became the first Chicago area hospital to have the world's most advanced all-digital vascular and interventional imaging system to diagnose and treat vascular and cardiac disorders, cancer and other diseases and disorders.

Resurrection Medical Center Today

Resurrection Medical Center is a 434-bed hospital with 523 physicians, 1,643 full-time employees and 336 volunteers, the 15th largest hospital in Chicago*, and the largest hospital of Resurrection Health Care, Chicago's largest Catholic health care system. Offering a full range of diagnostic and therapeutic services in virtually every medical specialty, RMC's highly trained nurses, physicians and other healthcare professionals provide the highest quality care to patients.

The strong Catholic healthcare ministry, the growth of the hospital to meet the healthcare needs of its patients and the continued partnership with the community continue the legacy of "neighbors caring for neighbors." Sister Donna Marie sums it up: "Many of our employees live right in the neighborhood, so they literally care for their neighbors. We have many employees who have generations of family members working at RMC, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, cousins, etc. We even have several second generations of physicians. Many employees and physicians who were born at RMC now work at the hospital. Our Auxiliary actually began working to help the Sisters raise money to build the hospital about seven years before it opened and many members and volunteers continue to come right from the neighborhood."

* Crain's Chicago Business, based on 2004 net patient revenues.

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