When Judie Hunter talks about her late mother, Lani, her voice floods with pride.
Judie explains how Lani, one of 15 children born to Italian immigrants, raised three kids on her own as a single mother. She talks about how her mother worked tirelessly to make sure Judie and her older brothers had what they needed to get by. She shares how much she misses her mom, who always reinforced the importance of not only working hard, but also giving back to others, even though their family had so little.
And with love, she describes the close bond and wonderful memories the two shared.
“My mother was the person I looked up to,” Judie says. “And from a young age, I knew I would do my best to give her a good life when I grew up.”
Judie kept that promise, and when a successful career working for three Fortune 500 companies took her around the world, she often brought her mother along with her.
It was during a trip to Egypt in the early 1990s that Judie noticed her mother’s legs had become swollen, and she was having difficulty walking. When the symptoms progressed, Judie took Lani to a local cardiologist, who discovered that her kidneys were failing. After many tests, Lani was diagnosed with fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD), which causes abnormal cellular growth in the walls of the arteries, reducing blood flow and increasing risk of a stroke.
FMD is a rare condition and, as Judie explains, little was known about it at the time of her mother’s diagnosis. Lani underwent surgery to treat her FMD, but her symptoms eventually returned. It was then that she was referred to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, known for our expertise in treating complex cases like Lani’s. The Brigham team was able to implant stents to keep blood flowing through Lani’s renal arteries—a risky operation, but one she desperately needed to save her life.
“If my mother didn’t have this operation, she would not have lived much longer than a few months,” Judie says. “The Brigham gave me a gift. It gave me 14 more years with my mother.”
After the surgery, Judie and her mother decided to create a trust to celebrate that precious gift and honor the lifesaving care Lani received from the Brigham. The trust will provide critical funds to fuel clinical care, training, and research within the Brigham’s Heart & Vascular Center—with the goal of increasing knowledge and awareness about rare conditions such as FMD.
In recognition of Judie’s generosity, the Brigham welcomed her into The Brigham Legacy Society, which celebrates donors dedicated to shaping the future of medicine by including the hospital in their estate plans.
September 22, 2021, marked the 10-year anniversary of Lani’s death. And while Judie says it’s the saddest time of the year for her, it’s also a time for personal reflection.
“I sit down, as I did all those years ago, and review my planned gift to the Brigham. And I reminisce about my wonderful mother and the gift they gave me.”