The above statements were made by many of his friends and so true they were. Tommy was a giving person, sharing and helping others and always putting everyone's needs before his own.

Watching your child grow up and become a young man that appears to be so active and healthy makes any parent happy. Tommy was always busy, never home too much .... his dad and I only saw glimpses of him when he stopped home to change uniforms and was in between going from one job to another, going to paramedic school, on a first aid or fire call or to get a few hours of desperately needed sleep. We knew he was doing too much, but he was happy and doing what he wanted to do. There were never enough hours in the day for Tommy to do and see everything and help everyone. His main goal in life was to be a flight medic or a flight nurse.

Back in the early summer of 1998, Tommy started to slow down. We just figured he was tired of his hectic work schedule and was taking some time for himself. He never complained about all the hours he was working or going to school, but something was not right. Slowly his lifestyle started changing and we knew something was wrong. He was becoming sluggish, constantly coughing and not feeling well, he was home more than anywhere else, he stayed up all night while we were sleeping and would try to sleep in bed when we got up in the morning. He would never tell us any problems he was having, he was always OK, but being parents, we knew differently.

In late June, he dialed 911 for a BUS (ambulance) as he was having difficulty breathing. Of course he had all his vitals written down and when the BUS and medics arrived, he was sitting and waiting for them - he told them what his symptoms were and gave them all the necessary info. At the hospital, Tommy was diagnosed with hypertension and post nasal drip ... several trips in and out of the ER and several short stays at the hospital was enough for Tommy ... he wasn't feeling any better and knew it was serious as well as we did. He discussed his problems with us and we knew it was a cardiac problem. We made a few phone calls and we were referred to a doctor at Cooper Hospital where they ran several tests and diagnosed his illness ... he needed a new heart. Learning this took our life and breath away and our lives changed at that moment ... you learn that your son - and only child needs a new heart. They kept him at Cooper Hospital for a week and released him in hopes that the oral medications would help him. He did not improve. We called his doctor at Cooper Hospital after his last admittance to the hospital and he arranged transport to Temple Hospital in Philadelphia where he was admitted on August 28, 1998 with CHF secondary to Viral Cardiomyopathy. Once Tommy learned that he would have to stay at the hospital and not be able to go home, it was hard news for him to adjust to and we knew this adjustment was going to be challenging .... also to the hospital staff. At the age of 27, Tommy was energetic - just what the 7th floor needed. Being the spark, he ignited camaraderie amongst other patients, something that was dormant for a period. Tom was charismatic and soon became an inspiration to others. The 7th floor took on a new flavor, a positive attitude; they were all one. We all integrated and did much to keep the patient's spirits high. Patients were allowed to spend time outside, weather permitting and if the staff was shorthanded, they had Tommy bring the crash cart and paddles.

But with his personality and intervention with people, it would be not be difficult for Tommy, except for the fact that he was limited to one place and not able to drive his new Ford Expedition that was just purchased. Being imprisoned in the unit was difficult and frustrating for Tommy even though he made attempts to hide it. It took it's toll on him as well as everyone else. Smaller things that normally would not have mattered, became areas of big concerns. Tommy like most everyone else, became the Mayor of the Heart Failure Hotel, the name he gave to the floor. It is a title that was given to the patient who was on "7 West" the longest. Tommy fit into the role perfectly. as a leader, the patients remained tight.

His only means of contacting the outside world was his laptop computer, telephone and continually having visitors... his friends, co-workers and family that constantly took the drive to Philadelphia to see him. A year of holidays and everyone's birthdays were spent at Temple hospital ... they were our new family and we celebrated together. Fundraising events were held for Tommy... by Brick Elks, Alert Ambulance, Brick PBA 230, Hudson County Relief Association, Pioneer Hose Fire Co #1, Breton Woods Fire Co. and Brick Republican Club to name a few to help offset his catastrophic medical bills.

Twice in May 1999, he got a call that Gift of Life might have a new heart for him; but it was passed over for another patient who was a better match. Finally on May 23, 1999 at 6:30am, Nurse Mike came in and woke Tom Jr & Tom Sr, they had a heart and had to begin prepping him for transplant. Tommy called home and I drove out to Temple hospital in record time. We were all elated, but no one more than Tommy. The swans, venipunctures, redundant meals and lack of interrupted sleep would soon be over. But he was unaware of the rocky road that laid before him. It was always in the back of our minds that he was so sick, he would never make it to Transplant. Our prayers were answered...so we thought. The surgery went smooth, however; Tommy was plagued with recurrent sternal infections. He finally was able to come home in June with a Limousine waiting outside the hospital to bring him home. Once we arrived near Brick, a welcoming home party of firetrucks and ambulances awaited his arrival to escort him home.....finally. Our neighbors decorated the front of our house with red heart balloons and everyone was there there waiting for him. This return home was temporary, after 2 weeks he returned back to the hospital with the reoccurning sternum infection; he was able to return home again on August 4th.

Tommy never felt good...even though he would say he was OK and we knew differently. He started to run a fever and on Sept. 14, 1999 Tommy called for a Bus to take him to the hospital, from there he was immediately transported back to Temple Hospital. While at Temple Hospital, Tommy went back to the OR many times to surgically clean his sternum. The doctors operated on Tommy 14 times post-transplant to treat the infection that was causing his fever...it was taking a toll on him and all of us -- the battle could not be won.....it was MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) a staph infection that eroded his aorta.

Tommy passed away on October 8, 1999 after giving the fight of his life. In Tom's memory, a Memorial Fund was created, not only to keep his spirit alive, but to continue helping others as he would have, and to make everyone aware of Organ and Tissue Donation.

Assistance is available to ALL EMS PERSONNEL & FIREFIGHTERS (PAID OR VOLUNTEER), their spouse and minor children residing at home, struggling from financial expenses due to medical burdens. It also assists HEART TRANSPLANT PATIENTS, their spouse and their minor children residing at home whose medical and pharmacy bills go far beyond their resources. Our main goal is to provide them with funds upon the receipt of a letter of financial need.

Tommy worked with Liberty Health Care System (Jersey City Medical Center) Jersey City and Secaucus and Alert Ambulance in Lakewood as an EMT-D. He was a member of Pioneer Hose Fire Company No. 1, Brick Township Underwater Rescue and Dive Team, Community First Aid Squad in Brick, NJ and Brick Elks #2151. He also served in the Army National Guard.

This site will also announce all upcoming benefits and fundraisers that will be planned. If anyone wishes to volunteer their time with these fund raisers please link onto fund information.....

Copyright © 2020, Tom Giannattasio Jr. Memorial Fund. All rights reserved.