Rhoda Gordon, the founder of our group, was a young mother of infant twin boys when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. As she recovered from ostomy, she was contacted by a local officer of the United Ostomy Association, who asked her to organize a group in this area.
Her own surgery experience made her realize the need for a support group. Spending hours on the phone, Rhoda rallied Doctors, nurses, Lutheran General Hospital, and the few ostomates she came to know. With her urging and planning the group, which became our group, was organized.
Though often asked, Rhoda never accepted the Presidency – always preferring to contribute behind the scenes and “out of the spot light.” She was warm and encouraging. At each meeting she welcomed ostomates, new and old alike. She discovered their interests and abilities, and was expert at involving them in the activities of the group.
Rhoda’s support went beyond our local group to the UOAA Youth Rally and International Friends of Ostomates Worldwide.
A wonderful example of how life can go on, Rhoda took a devastating blow to a young mother, busy with twin boys, and turned it into an ongoing effort to improve life for ostomates worldwide.
First printed in The New Outlook, April 1978, Rhoda in her own words:
On this, our third anniversary issue of our newsletter, we are happy to present you with the history of our still growing organization. Rhoda Gordon, our present Vice-President and Program Chairman, who has done such an outstanding job this past two years, agreed to share with us her:
Three and one-half years have gone by, and I can almost remember the entire interchange: “Rhoda, how would you like to start an ostomy chapter in your area?” asked Nadine Presley, not one of the Board of Directors of U.O.A. “I wouldn’t know where to begin,” I retorted impulsively. Nadine countered, “But I’ll help you.” I looked at her skeptically and uttered, “Yes, I know you say that now, but how long can I count on your support?” Nadine continued “I sincerely promise to give you as much help as I can.”
Nadine was so insistent, and as I looked back on how lost and insecure I was when I left the hospital after my surgery, there was only one answer that I could give her. So, in effect, that was the inception of our organization.
Nadine never did let me down. There were many calls, letters and several trips to the Northwestern Station to pick her up so that we could plan for our first meeting.
In the interim, I started contacting the medical personnel at Lutheran General Hospital whom I had met when I had my surgery. The first and foremost was Dr. Serritella. I had been informed that he was interested in forming an ostomy group. On December 16, 1974, with great trepidation and the shyness that many of you never see, I called Dr. Serritella and told him of my intentions. His enthusiastic response was almost overwhelming, and he certainly made that call easy for me. He pledged his support and that of his new associate, Dr. Don Larson. He asked me what I needed, and I told him the following: a meeting place and people to attend. We agreed that with both our schedules, along with the planning I had to do, that we would begin around April, 1975. I also called Barbara Schaefer, my nurse, who informed me that she was going to school to become an E.T. At that point I told her she was going to be the E.T. for our group! How do you like that for “Chutzpah”? (Yiddish word for “nerve,” which I learned to cultivate in the ensuing months.)
In the meantime, Nadine sent me my Bible, the Organization Manual, written by U.O.A., along with the names of ostomates and people who might be interested in helping. I called anyone, any name that was given to me from any source in order to invoke support and help.
On March 25, 1975, I received a call from Marlene Greenberg who volunteered, “all the help I needed.” Marlene became my “sounding board,” since I would bounce off her all my ideas. I called Clarence Davis, who told me of Margie Deisenroth and her visitation program. Now I was really getting confused. Visitation already? The American Cancer Society? How do they all fit in? I opted to concentrate on setting up our first meeting which was held in mid-April, 1975, in the Board Room at Lutheran General Hospital.
The illustrious group consisted of doctors: Serritella, Larson, Goldfarb, and Caldwell; two nurses: Barb Schaefer and Debbie LiCastro Anderson; Five ostomates: Bonnie Bachmann (who brought her husband, Bill), Clarence Davis, Marlene Greenberg, Florence Klein, and myself; an interested person by the name of Barbara Riley who volunteered her time by typing; and of course, Nadine Presley.
A lot of things emanated from that meeting. One of the most important being that Lutheran General is a member of a group of hospitals in the northwest suburban area which also includes Alexian Brothers, Northwest Community, and Holy Family. One of our greatest advances came when we contacted Lil Strezishar of Northwest, and Marilyn Tousignant, then of Holy family and Resurrection, and met with them and ostomates from their hospitals. The other hospitals joined the “bandwagon” and we were “in business.” I must say that the support of the E.T.s and their hospitals were the mainstay of our growth and existence. At the same time, four of us became tentative officers. Bonnie and I were co-chairmen; Marlene, Treasurer; and Florence Klein, secretary (who was later succeeded by Eleanore Koss. We also decided on a meeting date and the first name of our group, “the North Suburban Ostomy Association,” which was later changed to “the North Suburban Chicago Chapter of U.O.A.” We were very busy: having meetings, writing our first constitution, sending our flyers to doctors to inform them of our existence, and trying to meet the requirements for affiliation with U.O.A.
On May 27, our second meeting, we voted on our first constitutio9n which has since been revamped. Margie Deisenroth also came and explained her visitation program and what the American Cancer Society could do for us. What more could we ask? A ready-made visitation program that fell into our laps, thanks to Margie.
After some coaxing on all our parts, Bonnie Bachmann agreed to become our first President. I agreed to be our Vice-President, Marlene Greenberg our Treasurer, and Eleanore Koss our Secretary. Our elections were held in August. Barbara Grespan Fischer became our first Newsletter chairman, and Florence Klein our program chairman until Florence resigned and the program chairman fell under the duties of the Vice-President.
From then on there was an avalanche. New committees and committee chairmen were added, our membership increased, and our newsletter became more sophisticated. There are so many other events to be recalled and recounted, but because of limited space, I tried to concentrate on the very early beginnings. Also I want to leave room for some personal comments.
I am very proud to be a member of NSCC. (North Suburban Chapter Chicago of te United Ostomy Association) Even though you can say that I was at its “conception”, no one person can take credit for or create an organization. I saw Bonnie, who was hesitant, but who really grew and did a magnificent job as our first President. I watched Marlene who, though microphone–shy, quietly but diligently and accurately performed her duties. And who could forget Eleanore, who “floored” me when she passed out those very professionally typed minutes at our board and general meetings?
But what makes our organization work and continue to survive is the cooperation and interaction that we have between our seven E.T.s, the American Cancer Society and our own Doris Curtis, our visitation program, and of course YOU, the membership.
It is like a continuum: the E.T.s inform the doctors of our existence and visitation program. They contact the American Cancer Society. The ACS contacts Margie, who gets the visitor to see the patient. And very often, once discharged, that person becomes a part of our membership. So, as you can see, each one of you has an important role to play within our group.
Our chapter is unique in that all of us work together with a minimum amount of friction and the maximum amount of cooperation and enthusiasm. So, thank you – all of you – for making our organization a smoothly working, ongoing entity dedicated to our main objective: helping ostomates adjust to their ostomies.
Happy Third Anniversary.
Dr. Donald Larson
Dr. Alfred Serritella
Bonnie Bachman May 1975 – April 1977
Marilyn Mau May 1977 – April 1979
Eleanor Koss May 1979 – April 1980
Inez Des Jardins May 1980 – April 1981
Al Sarno May 1981 – April 1983
Mary Lantz May 1983 – February 1984
Shirley Levin (Pro-tem) March 1984 – April 1984
Al Sarno May 1984 – April 1986
Sue Snyder May 1986 – October 1987
Marilyn Mau (Pro-tem) November 1987 – April 1988
Al Sarno May 1988 – February 1989
Kimberly Siegel (Pro-tem) February 1989 – April 1989
Jane Michnik May 1989 – April 1991
Rhoda Gordon & Bonnie Bachmann (Co-presidents) May 1991 – April 1992
Dick Dorman May 1992 – April 1994
Gerry Kuntz May 1994 – April 1997
Joan Loyd May 1997 – April 2000
Dave Rudzin May 2000 – April 2003
Jane Michnik May 2003 – April 2005
Gayle Gilchrist May 2005 – October 2005
Jane Michnik October 2005 – July 2011
Judy Svoboda January 2012 – Present