BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Bob Valentine was born at Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, and at the time, it initially wasn’t clear if he’d survive.

He was six weeks early and impacted by something called hyaline membrane disease — an illness many babies have died from.

“Hyaline membrane disease, also called respiratory distress syndrome, occurs in premature infants and affects the ability of the lungs to function properly,” Dr. Anne Marie Reynolds, chief of neonatology at Oishei, said.

Thankfully, Valentine eventually became strong enough to join his family at home, growing up in the northern suburbs.

“Thanks to research performed at University at Buffalo by scientists and the neonatologists at Children’s Hospital, a treatment was developed in the late 1980s that is now used across the country and the world to save tens of thousands of premature babies each year. But in the 1950s, his survival was quite remarkable,” Dr. Reynolds said.

65 years after spending time as a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) patient, Valentine has given a $500,000 donation to the NICU at Oishei Children’s Hospital.

Thanks to Valentine’s generous donation, The Children’s Hospital of Buffalo Foundation established The Valentine Family NICU Fund. It was dedicated this past Wednesday.

And this past Valentine’s Day, Valentine surprised his mother, Margaret, by bringing her to Oishei for the reveal of “The Margaret and John Valentine Pathway to Hope.”

“In my 91 years, I have never been more surprised,” Margaret said. “Thank you to this hospital for saving Bob’s life and for all you do.”

Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.