A Gift... Beyond the Gift of Life


Vol. 18, No. 3
Fall 2008

  • A Gift... Beyond the Gift of Life

  • 12 Winthrop Specialists Named to New York Magazine’s 2008 “Best Doctors” List

  • Cancer Center for Kids Moves to a New Home

  • Friends & Benefactors Annual Reception

  • Winthrop Helps Postal Clerk Get Some Sleep

  • Winthrop: A Gateway to a Top-Rated Kidney Transplant Program

  • DiStasio Family Makes Donation to NICU

  • The Center for Advanced Care of Chronic Conditions

  • New Center for the Advanced Care of Chronic Conditions: Easing Patients’ Burdens through a Single Coordinated Plan of Care

  • Golfing for the CCFK

  • Annual Gala Celebrates Winthrop’s Passion for Care without Compromise

  • CCFK Families Celebrate Life

  • Unique Program Helps New Mothers Cope

  • Saving Lives in Bolivia

  • Winthrop’s New Welcoming Ambassadors

  • Tenth Annual Cancer Survivors Day Celebrates Life

  • Bay’s Big Bash Does it Again!

  • Spizz Family Supports CCFK

  • Pediatric Unit Receives Quilt Donation

  • Amanda Styles Cirelli Foundation Makes Generous Donation to CCFK

    Back to Publications

  • When Rocco Crimeni and Sal Coico go on a weekend- long hunting trip, it is not your usual father-son outing. In fact, Rocco and Sal were brought together by the most extraordinary of circumstances just six months ago when a tragedy united them in ways that neither of them could have anticipated.

    image
    Vincenzo Crimeni
    On March 19, 2008, the two men were strangers. Sal, at just 20 years of age, had recently learned that he would require a kidney transplant to deal with the failing of his own kidneys due to a life-long kidney disorder.

    And Rocky, as his family and friends call him, was reeling in shock following the collapse of his 27-year-old son Vincenzo during a softball game in Mineola.

    When Rocky and his wife Laurie learned that their comatose son’s heart was fatally damaged by an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), and that extensive testing by neurologists at Winthrop- University Hospital showed no sign of activity in Vincenzo’s brain, they had to make a monumental decision: whether to donate Vin’s organs to other patients in need of life-saving transplants.

    Remarkably, Vincenzo’s sister Angela and Sal’s sister Vincenza are friends and co-workers at a hair salon in Plainview.

    Though grief stricken over her brother’s condition, Angela told her parents, “I know someone who needs a kidney transplant.” The family was visited at Winthrop by Rich Mullane of the New York Organ Donor Network.

    “He was so kind,” said Vincenzo’s mom Laurie. “He told us that as donors, we could submit the name of anyone we wanted considered as a potential designated recipient, but he also cautioned us that the chance of a match in a non-family member was about one in a million.” In considering the option of organ donation, the family based their decision on what they knew Vincenzo would have wanted.

    “Vin’s good friend Chris had recently donated bone marrow to help save someone with leukemia,” Laurie remembers. “And Chris told us that when Vin heard about it, he said, ‘wow, that’s really cool… I wish I could do that for somebody – give them the gift of life.’ That gave us our answer.” Things moved very quickly at that point.

    Angela contacted Sal and his family to secure the details necessary for him to be considered a potential recipient by the Organ Donor Network, and Sal was whisked into New York City for testing at a hospital where organ transplants are performed. Against all odds, the tests determined that Vin and Sal were not only a match… they were a perfect match.

    The next day, one of Vin’s kidneys was transplanted into Sal, the other kidney to a father in Westchester, and his liver to another family man in Manhattan.

    “I was in the hospital after the transplant and I told the doctors that I wanted to go to pay my respects to the family of my organ donor,” Sal said, “but they wouldn’t let me leave the hospital to visit with the family.” Sal’s mother and father both visited the Crimenis at Vin’s wake to offer their deepest condolences – and their gratitude for having saved their son’s life.

    Sal had been diagnosed with Alport Syndrome, an inherited disease, as a small child, and the family knew that he would likely require a kidney transplant by the time he was in his early 20s. Sure enough, within the past year Sal’s kidneys had begun to fail, he was on heavy medication, and was spending three days a week in dialysis. Sal’s brother-in-law Tony underwent 10 months of testing in an effort to donate a kidney to Sal, but was ultimately denied as a candidate by the doctors.

    “I had become so tired, I could hardly do anything,” Sal remembers.

    “Then they started the dialysis, which helped, but on the days that I had dialysis, I spent five hours at the Center and was exhausted for the rest of the day anyway.” A kidney transplant became his only hope for the chance to lead a normal life.

    The transplant of Vin’s kidney was unusually successful, with the kidney showing signs of normal function while Sal was still in the operating room.

    Following the surgery, Sal was instructed to stay home and avoid public places, germs and potential infections due to the immunosuppressive drugs that are necessary after an organ transplant, but he was eager to meet, and thank, the family whose brave decision saved his life.

    “We were invited to visit him at home,” Laurie says. And when they did, the families became fast friends and, in essence, a new extended family.

    “Vincenzo brought us all together,” Rocco says. “Part of my son is still alive, and we know that we not only helped Sal, but we helped his family and generations to come.” The Crimeni family has not met the gentlemen who received Vincenzo’s other kidney or liver, but feel great solace in knowing that they saved all three families from having to suffer a tragic loss like the one that they experienced with their son.

    “People told us that organ donation would help us to cope with our loss,” Laurie said. “It was hard to imagine at the time, but we know now that it is true.” The Crimeni family and Coico family have become one big family in the months since the transplant took place.

    They celebrate special occasions together and have forged special bonds with one another.

    image
    Angela Crimeni and her “new brother,” Sal Coico.
    “I call him my new brother from another mother,” Angela says. “Even his appetite reminds me of my brother! He called us one day after the surgery and asked if Vin liked macaroni and cheese, because he had the most unbelievable cravings for it. And he did!” Angela remembers. “Macaroni and cheese was one of Vin’s favorites!”

    New cravings for lemonade soon followed – another of Vin’s favorites – and the families just continue to marvel in the wonder of it all.

    The men in the families have taken to hunting and fishing together, spending weekends upstate enjoying their newfound camaraderie. Sal is stronger and healthier, and his doctors say that his progress to this point is well ahead of the ideal projections for recovery time. He no longer requires dialysis, and has been weaned down to minimal doses of medication.

    image
    Sal Coico (second from right) with his father Lou Coico (far right), and (from left) brother-in-law Tony Suppa, and new family members Rocco and Nick Crimeni.
    “I am amazed at what Laurie and Rocky and Angela did for me,” Sal recently said. “I am so thankful to them, not only for the kidney and for giving me my life back, but because I feel like I’ve gained a new family.” In an effort to give back and support other people in need, Sal’s beverage distribution company, which he owns with partner Daniel, is giving a percentage of their profits to organizations that support research into heart and kidney disease.

    Likewise, the Crimenis have given a gift to Winthrop-University Hospital in an effort to help fight heart disease.

    After Vincenzo’s death, Vin’s friends held a fundraiser at a local pub and collected $3,100 which they gave to Laurie and Rocco in Vin’s memory. The Crimenis donated the money to Winthrop to create the new Vincenzo Crimeni Cardiac Disease Prevention Fund, which will be dedicated to cardiac education and testing for young adults.

    “When Vin was in a crisis, the people at Winthrop did everything imaginable to try to save him,” Laurie says. “And when we were suffering through profound uncertainty and fear, they supported us in ways well beyond the amazing medical care they provided. They cared for us as people, and supported us through the most agonizing time of our lives.” The Crimenis are not new to the Winthrop community, however. Both Angela and Vincenzo were born at Winthrop (which was then Nassau Hospital), and Angela has been a Volunteer at Winthrop since 2005. In addition, Rocky has been a patient of Kevin P. Marzo, MD, Chief of the Division of Cardiology at Winthrop, since 2002.

    “Rocky had a heart attack about six years ago,” says Laurie, “and the ambulance took him to the nearest hospital. But when the doctors there realized the severity of his condition, they immediately transferred him to Winthrop, and by the time I got inside of the Hospital, after following the ambulance there, he was already up in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab having four stents put in.” “Winthrop has supported us through the most trying of times,” said Laurie, “and we will do whatever we can to try to prevent other families from having to go through what we went through with Vincenzo.” In addition to supporting early screening and education at Winthrop, Laurie and Rocco have become ardent supporters of organ donation, and hope that their story will help to inspire others to give the gift of life.

    For more information about becoming an organ donor, please call the New York Organ Donor Network at 1-800-GIFT-4-NY (1-800-443-8469) or visit www.donatelifeny.org.agonizing time of our lives.” The Crimenis are not new to the Winthrop community, however. Both Angela and Vincenzo were born at Winthrop (which was then Nassau Hospital), and Angela has been a Volunteer at Winthrop since 2005. In addition, Rocky has been a patient of Kevin P. Marzo, MD, Chief of the Division of Cardiology at Winthrop, since 2002.

    “Rocky had a heart attack about six years ago,” says Laurie, “and the ambulance took him to the nearest hospital. But when the doctors there realized the severity of his condition, they immediately transferred him to Winthrop, and by the time I got inside of the Hospital, after following the ambulance there, he was already up in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab having four stents put in.” “Winthrop has supported us through the most trying of times,” said Laurie, “and we will do whatever we can to try to prevent other families from having to go through what we went through with Vincenzo.” In addition to supporting early screening and education at Winthrop, Laurie and Rocco have become ardent supporters of organ donation, and hope that their story will help to inspire others to give the gift of life.

    For more information about becoming an organ donor, please call the New York Organ Donor Network at 1-800-GIFT-4-NY (1-800-443-8469) or visit www.donatelifeny.org.



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