Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 07 October 2011 00:00
As they say in marketing, the important thing is location, location, location. For John Begano, it was true too, as he experienced a heart attack at a party at the senior center. The staff of the Life Enrichment Center of Oyster Bay went into action when they heard the words “chest pains” and ended up saving his life. As a result they will long remember their end of season party on Aug. 24.
“It was the day after the earthquake,” said LEC Executive Director Gail Speranza. “The theme of the night was Bella Notte - beautiful night - and the great room was transformed into an Italian Wine Garden with centerpieces with (fake) grapes flowing over. It was fantastic!
“John and Phyllis Bergano came with her sister Camilla Falzarano. They were dancing and having a wonderful time. But midway in the party, Camilla came over to Mary Frignani, program director and said, ‘Mary we’re leaving. We are having a wonderful time but John is not feeling well.’”
Gail said, “Mary asked, ‘What’s the matter?’ Camilla said, ‘He has chest pains.’ They were already walking out when Mary said, ‘Wait, you can’t leave.’ She was heading after them to the lobby. John was heading toward the men’s room - Mary thought - when she saw him collapse in front of her. He was having a heart attack.’”
Everything started to happen at once. Ms. Speranza said, “As soon as Mary heard that there was a problem, she got on the phone to call 911. Nancy Farinaccio, (assistant program coordinator) called the Atlantic Steamer Fire Department for their ambulance. She was in the kitchen and was near to that phone.
“Chef Anthony was running into the office to get the defibrillator. Tom, our driver, had given the entire staff training in how to use it. I was getting ready to use it for the first time.
“Meanwhile, Joanne Daddio, (former After Hours program coordinator) came to help. By the time I was ready with the defibrillator, John was sitting up.”
Gail said, “Joan had been fanning his face. She sent Camilla into the ladies room to get some cold towels.”
Mary Fragniani explained, “When I saw John walking up the stairs, I thought he was turning around, but I realized he was trying to hold onto the wall.
“He fell so gently. Suppose he had hit his head,” said Mary.
Everyone was doing and seeing it all happen at the same time. “Jill Mason went to the handicap entrance to flag down the ambulance,” said Mary.
Gail said, “It’s not unusual for us to have an emergency. We’re always ready to react.” She explained, “Even the day before. The entertainer had pneumonia so DJ Tom Mason from The Dance Machine filled in for him. Tony DiNapoli was the one who cancelled. “He was going to do Italian singers, like Frank Sinatra; and Dino (Dean Martin); and Tony Bennett,” added Mary Frignani.
Gail remembered the Bella Notte party again and said, “They were dancing the Lindy - Frank and Pyllis. It was halfway through the party when it happened. We’d finished dessert.”
Also remembering what happened in those few moments, Camilla Falzarano said, “I wanted to be sure they knew we were not leaving because we were not happy.”
Her sister, Phyllis Bergano said, “When the EMT came in I was panicking. I was standing there calling for my son Steve. I couldn’t find his number to call. I was very upset.”
Phyllis said when John fell, he was unconscious. Her son Steve Bergano of Creative Compositions, located in Townsend Square arrived to see the Atlantic Steamer EMTs were already there. “His mother was so relieved when he arrived,” said Gail. The NC Police also arrived, shortly after at the scene.
Meanwhile, the party was going on and everyone was dancing.
Ms. Speranza said, “They see a stretcher going out but life goes on here. It just shows we are used to things happening.”
Experience has been a great teacher. The seniors themselves realized the people in the foyer didn’t want anyone else coming there. “LEC members Miriam Pepe and Rose Ann Moore, both former nurses, were telling everyone to stay back. They knew we didn’t want a crowd. They kept the rest of the party going and kept on dancing,” said Gail.
The next day, Mary Frignani got a phone call from Phyllis who said, “Thank you so much for going into action over the emergency. At the hospital they said if we didn’t act so fast he would have lost his life.”
Gail said, amazed that now a month after the emergency, “I think he’s back to bowling.”
There were funny things they remembered too. Tom, their Wednesday bus driver, was part of the staff members who all responded to the emergency. As Gail was heading toward John to use the defibrillator, it was Tom who said, “You’ll really shock the guy. He’s sitting up.” It was Tom who trained the staff in how to use the defibrillator: he is a Glen Cove EMT.
“We trained so we didn’t panic,” said Gail.
Phyllis said, “I was hollering to get my son. I was panicking.”
Phyllis thanked them for their fast work. “It’s a pleasure to help,” said Gail. She explained, “The minute we heard chest pains we knew. We’ve called 911 many times.”
Phyllis added, “And he was up in a few minutes. The good news is that because everyone acted immediately, there is no damage to his heart.”
“I’m back to bowling,” said John speaking for himself. “I now have three stints. I had a heart attack 10 years ago and had a stint put in at that time, and now I have three. In the hospital they found 100 percent blockage and 90 percent blockage in two places.”
The ambulance took John to Syosset Hospital first, said Phyllis. “They took a brain scan to be sure it wasn’t a stroke. When they took an X-ray they saw the blockage. They called Manhasset [NS LIJ] and he was taken directly into the operating room when he arrived by ambulance, and the first stint was put in. A day later they put in the second stint.”
FYI: Phyllis D’Angelis (Bergano) and Camilla D’Angelis (Falzarano) grew up in Oyster Bay, today they live in Locust Valley, where John Bergano grew up. “I lived there first,” said Camilla. “I bought the empty lot behind her. We share a backyard,” said Phyllis.
In Italy, the family name was Bergamo. “That is what the name was but the authorities changed it when they arrived here,” said Phyllis. It frequently happened at Ellis Island as immigrants landed in this new country.
As they talked about the event, John was looking healthy and athletic in his red polo shirt, white slacks and sneakers. “God bless him,” said Gail, “We need him.”
“We both need him,” added Phyllis.
In her weekly LEC of OB Newsline column of Sept. 29, Gail wrote, “About half-way through the party, we had quite a scare with one of our members. There was even a frightening 911 call that had to be made…all turned out well and there will be a future story on this.”
Now you know the rest of the story.