I awoke Christmas Day and went to St. Pius X to assist the Masses at 10 AM and Noon. After cleaning up and locking the Church, I went home to see my family and prepare for Christmas dinner. All seemed perfectly normal, until we sat down to eat. Suddenly I didn’t feel well, was nauseous and excused myself. I sat in the living room and felt a sharp burning pain in my lower abdomen. Thinking it was a kidney stone, I put up with the pain for the rest of the day. I didn’t watch the kids open their presents, and was not a very good host.
Family went home; I took Aleve and went to bed. Dec. 26 the pain was muted, but came and went throughout the day. “Call the Doctor,” said Pat. I toughed it out for another day. Dec. 27, pain was intermittent, but I saw blood in my stool and called the urologist, still thinking it was a kidney stone. He saw me at 1:30 PM, determined it wasn’t a stone and sent me to the ER.
I met Pat in the ER (it was her last day of work, having resigned from the VA). By 4:30 PM, they had begun my triage in the ER. After a series of tests and CAT scans, the doctor told me at 8:30 PM that I needed surgery. I asked about being transferred to Jersey Shore MC. The doctor asked if I knew a surgeon there, I answered NO. He explained that it would take time to forward the paperwork, find a surgeon and have the operation.
I asked, “How soon do I need the surgery?” The doctor simply looked at his watch, and I knew I was in trouble. The surgeon was called and was at Community within a half hour. I was prepped and in surgery at 10:15 PM until 1:30 AM. I was diagnosed with diverticulitis, and a three inch hole in my colon that leaked into my intestines. They removed 8 inches of colon and gave me a temporary colostomy.
Meanwhile Pat had made a few calls for prayers, and I was immediately on the hotline for Cursillo, Diaconate, Church and family. My son, Pete, my brother Frank and Fr. Jay joined Pat in the waiting room. When the surgeon came out after the operation he told the family I had a 50/50 chance of recovery. He also told them to go home since I was still under the anesthesia. They all left except my son Pete who wanted to see me before he went home. Miraculously I came out of the anesthesia before they brought me to recovery. As they wheeled me out, I saw Pete and gave him the ‘thumbs up’. He smiled and a tear rolled down his cheek.
The next day, I saw the surgeon and thanked him for saving my life. “Not yet,” he responded. Over the next several weeks I received cards, phone calls and visitors all saying they were praying for me. Those who were helping me in the hospital could hardly believe the rapid recovery I was making. I felt the power of those prayers but I was so humbled by the love and comments of so many people. Sadly, most people don’t realize the impact they have on others. At their wake, the family is told about the little things that they had done or said that made a difference. I have been blessed to have received that love at my 25th Jubilee and now in my illness.
Every day in my prayers, I lift up all of you who have shared in my recovery- the doctors, nurses, techs, prayer warriors and family. I ask God to send his blessings and graces upon all of you.
On the lighter side: As you may know Pat & I were scheduled to lead a tour to Israel from Jan. 9- 16. On the day after surgery, a Eucharistic Minister from St. Barnabas entered my room. Her name is Peggy Cheselka, sister of Mary Weis. They were pilgrims going with us to the Holy Land. The nurse was in my room when Peggy entered and asked, “Are you the Anthony Martucci who is going to the Holy Land?” The poor nurse almost passed out, thinking that Peggy was saying I was going to ‘heaven- the Holy Land’.
Another source of humor and embarrassment was the fact that the nurses couldn’t believe that I am 70. They talked about it at report, and I often had nurses and doctors come into my room to see me. One doctor returned to the nurses’ station and said that I even looked younger than one of his co-workers, which didn’t go over so well with the co-worker.
As I look back over this ordeal, I give thanks to God for all of the wonderful events He set in motion for this trial. I was able to get to the hospital and the surgeon in time. One day later may have been too late. The attack occurred here in the US, not in Israel two weeks later- what a nightmare that could have been. I was in fairly good health, considering the seriousness of the illness and was able to fight the infection. I cannot say enough about the nurses, doctors and staff at Community Hospital. They were there each time I needed them, going beyond their duty. I am sure God was inundated with prayers from my communities and friends like the unjust judge in the parable who gave in to the widow and her persistence. God must have sent Raphael to heal and protect me.
Thank you to all of you for standing with me and for your prayers. God bless you and keep you safe in His love.