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Mario Ranelli


Saint Paul, Minnesota

1.18.1920 / Class of '97 / Died: 11/97

Report is submitted by his daughter:

Born 1-18-1920 on Phalen Creek, Swede Hollow, Saint Paul, Minnesota, Ramsey County, on the East Side of the Mississippi River.

My father was an avid golfer (4 times a week without a cart), gardener, gourmet chef, and all around well rounded man who is not rotund. He weighed 175. Complained of a chest pain that he though was due to golf but had a CT scan of chest on Sept 3, 1997. A tumor was found on the 5th left rib that they knew was cancer but didn't know if it was malignant or benign. News to Me. Isn't all cancer malignant? Sept 5 at 7 AM Mario had a biopsy done on a rib near the tumor, and he thought he could still golf at 9 o'clock that morning!! He has used a walker and a wheelchair ever since. The next day was the last day he ever drove but it was so dangerous now because of the fractured/disintegrated rib. He had just bought the car on August 22, it was less than three weeks ago and he had put less than 300 miles on it. It was a small dream of his, to own a late model Cadillac Sedan DeVille with 8,000 miles on it, and now no other driver in the household.

On Sept 24 Mario was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, with a possible 10 year window of survival time. He started radiation therapy immediately. Fifteen radiations treatments (RT), 5 days a week for 3 weeks. The treatments left him totally constipated, even home remedies like "power prune pudding" didn't help. Three enemas did provide some relief. On the 12th day of RT he complained of swollen ankles, and on the 13th day he complained again to the radiation oncologist. She suggested maybe a water pill, but did not follow through. On the 14th day of radiation the health care worker who wheeled my dad back from the treatment said vehemently, "no man should be in this amount of pain, " and wheeled him to the radiation doctor AGAIN, 3 DAYS IN A ROW!!! She looked at the swollen ankles and sent him home from United Hospital in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The next day the paramedics brought him back to United and put him on the oncology floor, where it seems most people do not leave. They have a reputation of having the best nurses and PCA's of any ward in the hospital. Now I know why! They choose to be with their patients at the end because they know more and see more than the doctors are able to.

Mario immediately was diagnosed with kidney failure, possibly an ileus or bowel obstruction, fever, anemia, weakness, and resting heart rate 133 or so. They immediately overloaded him with fluids to see if the kidney damage was reversible. They gave him blood, dextrose by intravenous, and Lasix when necessary. Antibiotics when the fever spiked, Demerol by mistake because it could cause seizures, and then Dilaudid by injection into intravenous and then drip with bolus, 0.5 mg to start with a 1 mg available every 30 minutes by bolus. Finally it was up to 8 mg plus the bolus, and I'm not sure he still wasn't in pain. I slept in his room for 4 nights and wrote down his thoughts and cries. "Take me out to a field and shoot me. Bury me under a tree." "Don't crucify me." "Sonofabitch! Where is your mother? I WANT TO TALK TO HER ALONE WHEN SHE GETS HERE!" I answered that she was here for 11 hours today and that at age 77 and with a heart condition and cortisone injections in her knee, that she had just gone home for a few hours sleep. I opened the windows to show him it was the middle of the night. HE KISSED HER THREE TIMES WHEN SHE NEXT ARRIVED.

He had been on ice chips for 8 consecutive days, they did a dye swallow test on him but he could eat pureed food. Food with some consistency is easier to swallow than liquids! Straws are almost impossible to use. Plastic spoons are the best! He came back after the Decadron, 4 days on, 4 off, to be started on Day 9 if any improvement resulted. During that good time he had a sense of humor, and told my mother "I will love you always," and then started drifting deeper and deeper. We knew he could still hear us because he responded with tears, or squeezing our hands appropriately or kissing us. It was very peaceful and beautiful. We played music on CD to keep him stimulated: Stand By Me, Pavarotti, Phantom, Broadway Hits, Chant, Yanni, Sanctuary music, Nessum Dorma from Turandot, Moonstruck (maybe Puccini?) and home videos of his life to keep him recognizing familiar thing. I tried subliminal messaging by telling him that he didn't need to itch because he wasn't itchy and HE STOPPED! We were looking for other signs of neurological damage. He wasn't even vomiting. His urine hadn't turned brown. Even though he didn't have enough energy to hold the phone and talk he got out of bed 3 times, pulled out all his IV's and was standing and walking. I think he was trying to find the bathroom because he didn't know he had a catheter in!! He got blood everywhere and made quite a mess.

One night when I told the nurse I was leaving for a short bathroom break, she got him a clipboard and pencil and on a yellow sheet he barely scribbled, call 653-8187 please hurry, he folded it and she took it. When I got back to the room I searched for anyone who could answer what this meant and who gave him the clipboard. I was told that because he folded it and didn't tell her to do anything with it, she didn't bother to find me!!! All this after I had slept on a chair waiting for him to awake!! Communication is everything, folks. Read between the lines. Hear what is not said. Do not be blind to what others can't perceive. Draw you own intuitions. Talk for him when he cannot. Help him stand for his own pride's sake when he can't because his bones arrested by Aredia are decalcifying so fast that he might still need calcium supplements.

A paradigm shift is needed here. I am an artist and a coach. I have been teaching for 27 years in an inner city high school. Our team is city champs this year in Saint Paul City Conference. My dad was my #1 volleyball fan, now he is my #1 team player, and I'm his personal coach. He cooperated and "followed the program," when it was made clear to him in simple terms. "Mario, if you take off the oxygen you will die. Is that what you want?" "No." The professionals would give him a ton or tome of information I'm sure he was not able to process after the first few words. They said he did not want any more chemotherapy but then again he floated in and out of lucidity. Once he asked if I had called Sunny yet, his golf buddy? I asked what his phone # was and he answered coherently and correctly. He thought he was across from Ritchie Plaza Radiation Center but said he was in Saint Luke's Hospital. The doctor was young and thought him confused. He just didn't know United was formerly called St. Luke's and had been for the last 17 years.

Dad, you never got sick, you said you were never in pain, you told of a light streaking across your back and we told you that you had our permission to give up the fight, let go, ride as fast as Mario Andretti, say hello to Mario, Geno, Grandpa Sam, Concettina and Ricardo, and just recently Grandpa Del Gregory, Dan Vannelli and Edith Morelli. You listened and went when you were alone, on Sunday morning, the day your plane would have taken off for Sun City West, Arizona. We are celebrating now, Dad, because you are no longer in pain anymore, and God is your doctor now. Saint Peregine, which means pilgrim, the cancer patron saint from Forti, Italy in the 1200's who converted and was healed of leg cancer, we pray to you to watch over him. Dio benedicti, nono, cumbare, papa, my espousa, mi amigi, mi amore! 


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