As an emergency medical technician, or EMT, for the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department, Nich Macchiarolo has training in dealing with medical emergencies. But he suddenly found his wife Gabriella and as yet unborn son in the middle of their own emergency situation.
After some scary hours and an emergency C-section delivery, Gabriella was stabilized, but baby Cash’s medical odyssey was just beginning. The family has been through surgeries, cardiologist visits and plastic surgery along with monthly trips to the pediatrician, all of which adds up to a hefty and as yet unknown expense.
To help the family deal with the costs, Guy and Lisa Verdi, owners of La Tavola restaurant on Winterberry Drive, held a fundraiser on Sunday afternoon. Between 350 and 400 people came out to support the Macchiarolos, listen to tunes from the Ben Allen Band, and enjoy a buffet featuring shrimp scampi, BBQ baby back ribs, pulled pork and fried chicken, along with brownies and watermelon for dessert.
“I just couldn’t stop looking at this kid on Facebook,” said Guy Verdi. “We know the family very well, so we were happy to help out.”
“We want to thank our staff, who volunteered their time, and all the members of the community who came out to help,” added Lisa Verdi.
“This was all Guy and Lisa’s idea,” said Cash’s grandmother Toni Macchiarolo. “He didn’t want to tell you that. We’ve just seen amazing support.” The Verdis are longtime stalwarts of the restaurant business on Marco Island, owning Verdi’s and the Philly Grille for many years before opening La Tavola almost three years ago.
“This shows the best of Marco Island,” said Marco Island City Councilor Bob Brown. “We’ve had several people in need, and the island certainly knows how to help out. I think the world of our fire-rescue department, and the police department, and we need to support them all we can.”
Along with about 30 members of the blood family of Nick and Gabby, numerous members of their fire department “family” were on hand as well.
“Everyone in our department is family. We’re here to help a brother,” said Division Chief Jeff Kutzke.
“This is amazing – what an overwhelming turnout,” said Nick Macchiarolo. “We weren’t expecting anything like this.”
Cash, who turns one year old on Aug. 24, wasn’t supposed to be born until closer to his due date of Sept. 28. He behaved like a trouper during the event on Sunday, passing between mom’s and dad’s arms, and taking everything in with big eyes.
“He does better when he’s out and doing things,” said Nick. “But if he exercises too much, his lips will turn blue, or he will turn blue.”
Cash’s condition is called tetralogy of Fallot, or TOF. It is a congenital heart defect that affects approximately one in 2,000 babies. He has at least one more open heart surgery procedure in store, but that can’t happen until he is six or eight. If all goes well, he will be able to do all the things other kids do.
At presstime, Lisa Verdi didn’t yet have a total on the funds raised Sunday, but said they were delighted at the turnout and the response to the raffle and auction items.
If you were not able to attend the fundraiser, but would be willing to help out with baby Cash’s hefty medical bills, you can drop off a check at La Tavola, or go online to gofundme.com and enter the name “Cash Macchiarolo.”