Special Gifts

Florida resident honors Weston staff, husband’s memory

Betty Hamilton of Fort Lauderdale and Key Largo, Fla., says her $2.25 million gift to Cleveland Clinic in Florida is in memory of an even more special gift. “My husband, Stu, is forever my gift,” she says.

Stuart Hamilton, retired owner and CEO of APSCO Inc. in Cleveland, where Mrs. Hamilton also was employed, passed away in May 2008 after a four-year battle with lung cancer. He was an oncology and pulmonary medicine patient at both Cleveland Clinic in Florida and Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

The Hamiltons previously donated more than $200,000 to Cleveland Clinic for oncology programs at the Weston campus. The newer gift supports the clinical research work of two of Mr. Hamilton’s physicians, Franck Rahaghi, MD, a pulmonary medicine and critical care specialist, and Elizabeth Stone, MD, an oncologist, as well as capital projects.

“The reason for our gifts is very simple,” Mrs. Hamilton says. “The staff are doing some great things.”

On Dec. 16, 2003, a physician first diagnosed Mr. Hamilton’s lung cancer and told him that he had only six months to live, Mrs. Hamilton says. This prompted the couple to seek a second opinion at Cleveland Clinic in Florida.

“Because of the dedication of the staff there, Stu lived four-and-a-half years,” Mrs. Hamilton says. “They gave me four more years with the man I adored.”

Impressive Teamwork

Mrs. Hamilton says that the teamwork between the medical staffs in Florida and Ohio impressed her, as did knowing that “different disciplines are only a hallway away. If they went in [during a procedure] and found another issue, they could get the other surgeons needed within a moment’s notice, and we would not be waiting five or six weeks to see the next doctor. I loved the one-stop shop.”

During Mr. Hamilton’s treatment, the couple developed close relationships with his healthcare providers that she continues to enjoy.

“When you’re very ill, total strangers become an extension of your family,” Mrs. Hamilton says. Everyone the couple met at Cleveland Clinic became friends of theirs, she says, adding that she and her husband were impressed by how well they and other patients were treated. “They know us as people, not as a number or just as patients.”

In December 2008, Cleveland Clinic in Florida named its hematology-oncology patient waiting area the Stu and Betty Hamilton Pavilion.

At the dedication, Bernardo Fernandez Jr., MD, Chief Executive Officer of Cleveland Clinic in Florida, said the Hamiltons’ gift “will live on in the research and clinical care Cleveland Clinic provides to patients every day.”

Mrs. Hamilton says it feels good to see her husband’s name displayed in the waiting area.

“Stu deserves that,” she says. “It’s an honor and a privilege. We had philanthropic goals all of our lives, and before he passed away, I wanted him to know that the goals we decided on were actually going to come to fruition. He was happy about it. I feel that if there is anything I can do to give other Stus a fighting chance, I will do it.”

This story originally appeared in the summer 2009 Catalyst newsletter.

To make a gift supporting Cleveland Clinic Florida or any area of Cleveland Clinic, visit our secure giving site or call Institutional Relations and Development at 216.444.1245 or toll-free at 800.223.2273, ext. 41245.

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