BRUNSWICK – Betty and Chuck Mercurio worked hard to build the family they love.
Two years ago, life was going pretty much according to plan. They had two active sons, Vinny and Tony, and a home and friends here in Brunswick that they loved to enjoy.
Then, one Sunday in November of 2017, everything changed.
“We often times wish we had a life like it was,” Betty says, “(because) one moment can change everything. And you have no control over it. And that’s the scary part.”
On that Sunday, Vinny came inside complaining of a headache. He quickly said it was getting worse, and Chuck suggested that Betty drive him to the nearby Cleveland Clinic facility.
On the five minute drive, Vinny threw up, then passed out. Two minutes after he arrived at the Clinic’s Brunswick center, he stopped breathing.
“You’re devastated, you’re in shock,” says Betty, “your healthy child…what is it? What happened?”
Life-flighted to the Clinic’s main campus in Cleveland, doctors at the Clinic’s Children’s Hospital determined Vinny had bleeding inside his brain.
Initially, he was too sick to operate, and the prognosis looked grim. A priest was brought in to administer last rites.
“So we would just hold him and talk to him, and pray that we could wake up from this nightmare,” Betty says.
A successful operation two days later meant Vinny might have a chance to fight to get his life back.
But, at that point, Vinny was still in intensive care. He couldn’t walk, much less talk. And to improve would require intensive, daily rehab.
“I thought there was a glimpse of something inside, something we can work with, and hopefully, bring out the best in him,” says Dr. Erin Murdock, a pediatric rehabilitation specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.
Given the commitment required from Vinny, his entire school and community got behind him. And, doctors say, that type of support, of love, matters.
“I think it makes a world of difference for these kids,” says Dr. Christine Traul, a Cleveland Clinic Pediatric Specialist, “it’s like having a cheerleader.”
Turns out, Vinny had hundreds of them. His entire school, Crestview, sent videos, hundreds of children dressed in red “Team Vinny” tee-shirts, all chanting, “Here we go Vinny, here we go!”
Vinny worked hard, continues to work hard, to walk and talk again. And he is doing both. And he will tell you, in his own words, that the support is important. “It made me feel like people were thinking about me, and hoping for me to get better,” he says.
Months after his incident, when he finally was able to leave the hospital, hundreds of people walked through the snow to welcome him home.
“The message is thank you,” says his mom, Betty, “(because) all of those thoughtful gestures, the prayers, they are really what carried us through.”
A couple of Vinny’s teachers met with him over the summer at the library to make sure he was up to speed, and this year, he is back in class in his grade.
His speech and his mobility continue to improve, as he continues to be surrounded by love that starts with his family and extends out through his entire community. His mom says when she looks at him now, she thinks “what a miracle.”
If it takes a village to raise a child, maybe it takes a village to help save one too.