LEADERSHIP TEAM

President

Eileen Rubin, President & Co-Founder

Eileen is President of the ARDS Foundation, a leading humanitarian organization that fights ARDS globally and provides advocacy and emotional support for those affected by ARDS.

Eileen, who co-founded ARDS Foundation in 2000, spent nine weeks in the hospital, where she nearly died from ARDS five times during the course of her prolonged hospitalization.  She has devoted time and energy to ensuring that what she and her family endured will not happen to other families.

Eileen is a respected defense attorney in Chicago. She is a tireless advocate and is regularly sought after for speaking engagements on ARDS.  She and her daughters reside in.the north suburbs of Chicago.

Vice President

Paula Blonksi, Vice-President & Co-Founder

Paula is Vice-President and co-founder of the ARDS Foundation, a leading humanitarian organization that fights ARDS globally and provides advocacy and emotional support for those affected by ARDS.  Paula manages all the daily operations of the Foundation.

Paula, who co-founded the ARDS Foundation, had a sister who died of ARDS in 1998.  She is committed to ensuring that affected families get the information they need to understand ARDS in order to make the most informed decisions. She helps all those affected by ARDS by offering information, compassion and most importantly, hope.

Paula works for an insurance brokerage firm in Chicago. She and her husband reside in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago and have one beautiful daughter.

Our Stories

Eileen Rubin, President

Once day, I had difficulty breathing and went to the ER…

On June 2, 1995, at the age of 33, I went to the emergency room at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, because I could not breathe. I was told my white count was three times higher than normal and that I had pneumonia.  I was placed on oxygen and admitted directly into the Intensive Care Unit.  That night, my kidneys failed.  A day and a half later, I went into respiratory arrest and was intubated.  I spent the next four weeks in a drug-induced coma.

“My family was told several times that I would not survive and they should consider removing me from life support”

The prognosis was extremely grave.  My family was told several times that I would not survive and they should consider removing me from life support, that it would be a quality of life issue.  However, after four weeks, I either responded to steroid treatment or just began to turn the corner enough to be taken out of the coma.

I spent the next five weeks on the respiratory floor, riding the ARDS roller coaster. Throughout the course of my nine week hospital stay, both my lungs collapsed twice requiring five chest tubes; I suffered a hospital psychosis (psychotic episode); I needed eight blood transfusions; I developed a secondary pneumonia in my tracheotomy.  I had an impossible time getting off the vent, but one day, made up my mind that in order to walk out of the hospital, to have children, I would have to get off the vent.

My recovery was extremely challenging.

Like most survivors, I was completely deconditioned.  I had physical therapy for three months and then continued at the local fitness center.  I did not work for eight months after my hospital release, and then, only part time.  On the other hand, I was able to get pregnant with my first daughter only six months after I got out of the hospital.  Almost two years later, my second daughter completed our family.

“when I was sick, there was no one to help my family, to answer their questions about ARDS, calm their fears, give them hope”

One of my major motivations for creating this organization is the fact that when I was sick, there was no one to help my family, to answer their questions, calm their fears, give them hope.  There was no literature available to them aside from the medical articles, which they did not fully comprehend.  Once I got out of my coma, there was no one available for me.  And for years, I thought that ARDS was a relatively rare condition.  I did not know that there were so many people out there who could relate to my experience.

In creating this foundation, we are hoping to not only educate, but also provide support to those in need.  And, in time, to raise the much needed funds to assist in the research already being done.  I know that if a family member or friend were diagnosed with ARDS and I had done nothing to change things for the better, I would feel more than remiss.

Paula Blonski, Vice-President

I lost my sister Marybeth to ARDS in August of 1998.

In May of that year, Marybeth went into the hospital to have an ovary removed after it had been causing her trouble for years.  After the surgery, Marybeth came home from the hospital and began to receive in home health care to attend to her wound. She was having difficulty with the wound, as it was not healing properly.  After approximately two weeks, she went back to the hospital so they could clean out the wound in hopes of stopping the bleeding and helping the wound to heal.  One week later, she had a temperature that was high enough for the doctors to worry and told her to go back to the hospital.  They admitted her then and she began her battle.

They ran several tests on her to determine why she had a fever.  The other puzzling factor was that her white blood cell count was low, which is unusual when you have a fever, your count should be high.  She began to get progressively sicker, and began to have trouble breathing.

“She began to have trouble breathing. Days went by and the hospital told us she now had ARDS.”

Since she continued to have trouble breathing, they decided to next do a lung biopsy.  When they were doing the biopsy, the lung collapsed and they intubated her.  They then had to put her into a drug induced coma due to agitation from the vent. Days went by and the hospital told us she now had ARDS.  At first I thought it was a generic term they gave everyone who had trouble breathing.  I soon found out it was not a term, but a syndrome.

They decided to do a bone marrow extraction to see if they could determine why her white blood cell count was low.  After what seemed like weeks of testing, the results of the bone marrow extractions told us she had Leukemia.

The doctors were at the end of their rope on how to help her, so we made the decision to move her to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, IL.  The doctors there were hopeful that the Leukemia could be cured if they could stabilize her from the ARDS.

She spent the next 3 weeks on the ARDS roller coaster.

She would get better, one day to the point they were going to remove the vent, she would then spike a fever again and take a turn for the worst.  One day they could not stabilize her with medication and she slipped away.

“Throughout this ordeal, no one could give us good information on ARDS what it was, how it affected people, anything.”

This devastated us, mostly because we didn’t understand how this could happen.  Marybeth was in fairly good health, and was only 36.  Throughout this ordeal, no one could give us good information on ARDS what it was, how it affected people, anything.

Marybeth was a wonderful, caring person.

She was a registered nurse, a daughter, a sister and a friend and will be missed by so many.  There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think of her.

This is the reason why I got involved in forming this Foundation.  It is the hope of our family to help others to get information, provide support or to deal with the loss of a loved one to ARDS.  It is also our hope to raise funds for research that is being done.