Sydney and Barbara Oko

Thirty years ago, 40-year-old Sidney Oko’s quality of life was very poor due to a damaged aortic valve. "I could hardly walk, and I was in real bad shape. I realized I had a very serious problem," he recalled.

Mr. Oko underwent an aortic valve replacement at Loyola University Medical Center (Loyola). His team included now retired Loyola cardiologist Rolf Gunnar, MD, and cardiac surgeon Roque Pifarre, MD, who is living in Spain part time. "Dr. Gunnar was extremely interested in my case. He and Dr. Pifarre worked very well together, and I was lucky to have them on my team," Mr. Oko said. "They put my life back together."

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After the successful surgery, Mr. Oko kept busy, raising children and grandchildren, but he never forgot the physicians who made it all possible. He and his wife, Barbara, recently pledged $100,000 over two years to be used toward unrestricted cardiology research at Loyola. Part of the gift will honor his surgical team by renaming the echocardiography reading room in the hospital the Rolf Gunnar, MD, and Roque Pifarre, MD, Reading Room. "It’s a small repayment for what these doctors have given me: health, happiness and the ability to watch my grandchildren grow," he said.

"It’s great to hear from former patients who are doing well years after a procedure," said Dr. Gunnar. "It’s one of the most important rewards that make the medical profession worthwhile." As a testament to his own cardiac health, Mr. Oko believes it is fitting that his gift will contribute to research that will benefit future cardiac patients. "Loyola did a great job with me 30 years ago, but the technology and surgery success rate is even greater today," he said.

He is proud to make a donation to a health system with such a strong reputation, adding that he would not hesitate to return to Loyola if he needed more treatment. "Loyola is a great institution. It’s one that’s renowned and respected, and I’m happy to be involved in a small way with its leading-edge cardiology research," he said. "Who knows, in the future I may return for more treatment. Although I’ve been told this valve may outlast me."

Mr. Oko believes that philanthropy to health care in general is important because it is a way to share your good fortune with others. "Philanthropy is a wonderful way of telling people you’re happy with your quality of life and you want others to enjoy their lives as well," Mr. Oko said. "What better way of expressing your happiness is there than helping others enjoy good health?"

For more information on giving a gift for research in cardiology, contact the Office of Development at (708) 216-3203.

Patient Gift Honors Heart Physicians Who Restored His Health