That month at Children's, Luca was surrounded with thoughtful, caring nurses. Nurses who talked him through the wires coming out of his head and the tubes coming out of his arms. Nurses who thoughtfully explained the video monitors and the bathroom protocol and the litany of medicines. Nurses who had a way with small needles and lean little arms-who brought toys and meals, and, once, a dog for Luca to play with. Nurses who remembered my son by name without having to look at his chart, and nurses whose names I, of course, do not remember, but wish I could, because they've earned my forever gratitude. Thank you. You tended to Luca and to our entire family. Thank you. -- an except from Frank Bonanno's "The Month Luca was a Borg."
Frank Bonanno, the owner/chef of Luca d'Italia, Bones, Mizuna, Osteria Marco, Wednesday's Pie, Lou's, Green Russell and Russell's Smokehouse, has maintained his own blog for the past six years, and while his posts are always entertaining, sometimes controversial (especially when he's lashing out at the Department of Health), occasionally amusing (his post titled "Is it my Fault Someone Stunk up the Bathroom?" is clever and cheeky), his latest entry, "The Month Luca was a Borg," which he just wrote, is intensely personal.
In 2003, recounts Bonanno, his son, Luca, began experiencing epileptic seizures at only nine months old -- seizures that would eventually occur "every twenty minutes and right through the night." Seizures that "lasted an excruciating eleven minutes." In 2007, Luca had surgery at Children's Hospital, where a neurosurgeon removed, writes Frank, a "plum sized piece of Luca's brain."
Frank goes on to detail, as poignantly as anything you'll ever read, the heroics of the neurology department at Children's that saved Luca's life, how an experimental surgery -- one that had no track record to ensure its success -- would stop the seizures. Luca has been seizure-free, says Frank, since the day after he lay on the operating table.
And since 2008, Frank, along with his wife, mother and business partner, Jacqueline, have hosted dinners at Luca d' Italia, for whom their son is named, to give back to the hospital -- specifically the neurology department -- that brought normalcy back into their lives. "The whole thought behind this," Frank tells me, is "when Luca was in the hospital, we realized that the kids who were going through this kind of trauma were laying in bed all day, and they couldn't get around, because there wasn't any hospital-friendly technology to enable them to move around safely."
As such, Frank and Jacqueline pledged to donate $20,000 a year to the neurology department at Children's, specifically for the purpose of giving the kids, "he says, "what they want and need" -- portable computer monitors, for example, that the kids could carry in bags over their shoulders to monitor their brain activity for seizures, should they have one while walking around -- and Wiis that are retrofitted for televisions, along with controls that are complicatedly wired.
And since 2008, the Bonannos have fulfilled their promise by hosting fundraising food-and-wine pairing dinners at Luca. And on Thursday, September 20, they'll host another one with guest chef Charlie Palmer, owner of Charlie Palmer's District Tavern. "We went to Charlie's restaurant right after it opened, and we struck up a good rapport," recalls Frank, adding that Jacqueline "reached out to ask if he'd be wiling to be a part of the benefit." Palmer, the father of four kids, didn't have to think about it. "He didn't hesitate; he accepted immediately," says Frank.
The dinner, which will be four to six courses, some prepared by Palmer, some created by Frank, has two seatings, one at 5:30 p.m., and a second at 8:15 p.m. The price is $175 per person (or $225 per person with wine), and 100 percent of all the proceeds go directly to the neurology department at Children's Hospital. "It'll be a spectacular meal, and the wines will be unbelievable," Frank promises -- plus Luca will be there to kick off the dinners.
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