Personal Stories: Frank Rende

Hello Brian, I have just read your article on your website and will continue to read through the other links that are available.  I feel that your website will be very resourceful.

My father's name is Francesco (Frank) Rende and he is 77 years of age, the father of 5 children, 9 grandchildren and a very devoted husband to my mother for over 51 years. Here is his story...

He collapsed at home in the early morning on April 15, 2004.  My sister called 911 and he was sent to nearby York Finch General Hospital, which is located in a suburb of Toronto.  He was complaining of a very severe upper chest pain and headache as well as feeling very cold and sweaty at the same time.  They conducted some tests (CT scan of the head, chest x-ray, EKG) and they determined that he was not having a heart attack or a stroke.

 After being in the emergency from 8:00 am until 2:30 pm, he was sent home and was given a painkiller for his head ache.  He was still complaining that his shoulder was hurting and his head.  I asked the doctors that if it was a good idea to send him home, why not keep him in for observation over night?  Well, he still decided to send him home so home we went.

I decided to stay for dinner and that was just as well because at approximately 6:00 pm of that same day he collapsed again.  We called 911 AGAIN, and he was sent back to the hospital.  Still not diagnosed, the doctor this time had an idea as to what was happening to my father but could not be sure until we did a CT scan of his chest.  So they pursued the scan, after a few minutes they came back saying that they were unable to proceed with the scan because his blood pressure was not normal.

They needed to give him some medication to bring it back to normal so we waited and waited for the medication to work.  The CT scan was going to be a risk; a risk that we needed to be aware of therefore, they needed our signed consent.  We were told that there could be kidney failure once the test was done because of his blood pressure but we literally had no choice.  We needed to have the test done to have the diagnosis otherwise no major hospital would accept him without a diagnosis, so we consented.  Well after the CT scan he was in so much pain that he was screaming and in all of my 35 years of life have never heard my father scream from so much pain. 

The results were definite in that he was experiencing a dissection of the ascending aorta valve and that the hospital he was in could not do anything for him.  We were basically told that this was inoperable at this time and we want to make him comfortable for the time he has left. 

I guess the attending physician at that time did not have much hope for one of the more specialized hospitals of accepting him as a patient but that changed and Toronto General gave the okay to have him transported there.  Nearly 18 hours since he first collapsed at home for the first time and in the interim sent home mid day from his first trip to the hospital because the first doctor was not competent enough to know that this was happening to my father we were following an ambulance to Toronto General Hospital.  It was not until the 2nd emergency doctor that had enough sense to have an idea what was going on with my Father and pursue diagnosis and treatment. 

It was now 3:00 am on April 16th, and we were waiting to speak to the cardiovascular surgeon that was called in for my Father, Dr. Borger.  Truly, this doctor seemed to be the doctor that was going to help him.  He spoke to us with such knowledge of what was happening to my Father that we all had a sense of relief, relief in a way that he was going to be given a chance, that to this point we did not have given the maltreatment my Father was given initially at York Finch Hospital.

Dr. Borger was very clear in saying that it was a 50/50 chance that our Father would survive the operation, a total replacement of the ascending aorta valve and if he did survive, there would further complications such as a stroke.  He confirmed that he was going into the operation with kidney failure, which probably was a result of the CT scan that was done at the other hospital.  A test that should have been done earlier in the day when he made his first trip to the emergency room.  We feel that as the day progressed his blood pressure got worse which made it more difficult to do the CT scan, which was not done until the early hours of April 16th because of the misdiagnosis.

5 ˝ hours later Dr. Borger came to see us with optimism about the recovery of our Father however, it has now been one month on May 16th, since the operation.  He was in ICU for one month, has dialysis 3 times a week, has had a Tracheotomy to help secrete excess fluids, had had a feeding tube in his mouth for 3 weeks (now has a feeding tube in his stomach) and at times seems to be unresponsive when you speak to him.

They secrete the fluids through the access hole that the Tracheotomy has given them.  We have been told that there has been some neurological damage because of a moderate stroke he has suffered, but to what extent, at this time they are not able to say.  Hopefully we can know more when he starts to speak.  This week they are corking the Tracheotomy a few times a day to test his speaking ability.  He can move his limbs and himself and this is evident when he is lying in the bed.

They have started taking him out of the bed to get him moving and get his circulation going.  We are at a point where as we thought recovery would have been a little more progressed at this time and cannot understand at times, his unresponsiveness.  He does hold my hand and holds it very tightly and when I try to kiss him he does make a very weak “pucker”.  Sometimes I see tears roll down his face and I am left with visions of my father in my dreams and in my day-to-day routine.

Should someone be accountable for not properly diagnosing him earlier that day?  We as a family are focusing on his recovery of course but are left with a lot of unanswered questions.  Thank you for listening to my story.

Update: 7/27/04

Hello Kim, I've been meaning to post an update to my Dad's (age 78) story and will do so very soon. I've been very busy at work and at home having young children so the days are very short.
Thank you for you concern and I loved reading your good news.  I envisioned you father in the garden because my father too is a die hard vegetable gardener, I guess that is his nature being an Italian man (he came to Canada in the mid 50's...he's what you call, "off the boat").  Well his anger has seem to be gone, his depression comes and goes, mostly goes when he sees his grandchildren.  He is still in the hospital (since April 16th) and the only thing that is stopping him from going home is his inability to gain the strength/energy to stand up on his own and walk.  I feel he has become very complacent and has grown accustomed to everyone doing things for him, but yet he complains that he wants to come home, so we tell...THE ONLY THING STOPPING YOU IS WALKING ON YOUR OWN.  He's much happier now that he is able to eat regular foods, but he will not dare eat the hospital food, my poor Mom (age 76) has been going to the hospital since the first day, and she will bring him what he has been longing for for such a long time...a nice plate of pasta.  You see that is very important to an Italian man set in his ways so we encourage him to eat to get his strength back.  But of course the hospital is now wanting to "get rid of him" and "ship" him off to a long term care facility because really he is not on any medication or is not being fed by lines, just the dialysis he gets 3x a week.  The hospital's compassion seems to have worn off because his recover has been very long and enduring.
On another note, we are seeking legal services against the 1st emergency doctor who DID NOT diagnose the dissection, but rather sent him home with a pain killer.  Even though my Dad was still complaining of a head ache and upper chest pain (close to his neck) they still sent him home.  It wasn't until many, many hours later that he collapsed AGAIN at home and the 2nd emergency doctor finally diagnosed the dissection but with damaging consequences because of the delay in his treatment.  We know that his legal matter may take years but someone needs to be accountable for what happened and we have been told that someone certainly "dropped the ball" on your father's initial visit to emergency.  We are thinking of his future, especially if he does need to stay in a long term care facility that his pensioner insurance will not cover.
Once again, thank you for keeping in touch and I was meaning to reply and I apologize for the delay.  Please do continue to keep in touch.
Brian, you may add my update to the website and I know you hear this a lot...BUT THANKS FOR THE WEBSITE!!!

Update: 10/31/2004

Another update to Frank Rende's story posted on May 18, 2004...

I first told my father's story this past spring and at that time it did not seem that he was going to survive or ever come out of the hospital. Well, almost 7 months later we finally brought him home...for good!! He only started walking about 2 months ago, 1 month ago on his own with the assistance of a walker. He still needs to have dialysis treatment 3x a week for 4 hours at a time, probably for the rest of his life; it is because of the Grace of God that my father has survived everything he has endured. With my mother by his side literally every day for hours at a time, with her own ailing health, my father is still here to love and support her, his children and grandchildren.

Many thanks to Brian for this great website, for giving me the resources and that I needed to answer my questions and give me hope. I knew after reading some of the stories that it was going to be a very slow recovery. Sincere appreciation to the wonderful doctors and nurses at Toronto General Hospital, to my mother who cared and loved for him everyday in the hospital and to my sisters and brothers who have stuck together through everything we have been through as a family. My prayers have been answered.


A. Bennett

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