A Father and Son's Journey


Roberto Victor Duke knows firsthand the power of lifesaving medical care. When his mother was traveling back from the Caribbean on a cruise, she gave birth to Roberto prematurely, and he weighed one pound and two ounces. The doctor on board saved his life by constructing a makeshift incubator out of wine crates. His mother was so grateful that she named her newborn after Captain Roberto and the cruise ship, called Queen Victoria.

“This story of my birth always reminds me of the importance of helping others,” Roberto said. He went on to attend the University of Virginia, where he met his wife, Ivy. Together, they moved to Washington to start their careers—he as an urban planner and she as an attorney. In 2003, Roberto and Ivy discovered they were going to have a baby, whom they would name Ian.

At the 20-week ultrasound, they learned that Ian had hypoplastic right heart syndrome, a serious congenital heart defect. They were referred to Children’s National and at just three days old, Ian had the first of five open-heart surgeries. He is now thriving. “While my birth was fraught with challenges,” said Roberto, “I never imagined that my own child would endure a similar fate. We decided to put Children’s National in our wills so that more children have access to excellent medical care.” 

As members of the Guardian Society, the Dukes actively raise awareness about the power of philanthropy. Ivy recently joined the Children’s Hospital Board. In the summer of 2014, they welcomed Ana Victoria Duke into their family. “My mom honored the captain of the ship for saving my life by naming me after him,” said Roberto. “So it’s fitting that Ivy and I have named Children’s National in our wills. We want to honor the doctors and nurses who helped Ian survive.” See Ian's story in this video.

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