Ranken Jordan | St. Louis Public Radio

Ranken Jordan

Susan Walker is a great-niece of the late Mary Ranken Jordan.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Growing up in Great Britain, Susan Walker heard bits and pieces about her great-aunt Mary Ranken Jordan, who had immigrated to the U.S. from Northern Ireland in the late 19th century. But several years ago she became determined to learn more about this distinguished yet mysterious relative.

She knew of her lasting impact in St. Louis, and now Walker’s research into Jordan’s life and legacy has her traveling overseas herself to the Gateway City. 

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Walker about the children’s hospital Jordan founded in 1941, what she’s learning through her research — and what she’s still hoping to discover about her great-aunt from others.

The opening bars of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” echo through a bustling therapy gym as 13-year-old Courtney Turner practices her physical therapy for the day: lip syncing.

A rare infection attacked Turner’s nervous system last year, leaving her almost completely paralyzed. Her doctors called it “a lightning strike”: Once a bubbly preteen who ran track and cracked jokes with her twin brother, she’s spent the past seven months undergoing intense rehabilitation therapy at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital. During that time, Turner has slowly started to regain some of her muscle movement and reflexes like swallowing food.