For Thanksgiving this year, Converse, Texas, lawyer ileta A. Sumner, her husband, and their two young sons were scheduled to travel to spend the holiday week with her extended family. Despite the 22 hours it would take to reach Chicago by train, Sumner felt blessed to be able to make the trip to her uncle’s house in Rockford, Ill.

A year ago, Sumner, formerly general counsel of Family Violence Prevention Services Inc. (FVPS) in San Antonio, and her family had plane tickets to fly to Illinois for Thanksgiving, but they scrapped the trip after Sumner suddenly became ill. In mid-November she was hospitalized with congestive heart failure.