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A heart for my family
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I’m going to let the cat out of the bag…my given name is Pina. Pennie is my nickname.  I was named after Grandpa Pino and my maiden name is Skittone.  Have you guessed that I’m Italian?  I’m proud of my family heritage and yes, Skittone Road in Modesto was named after my Great Uncle Johnny.

I grew up in a traditional Italian family.  As long as I can remember, we have grinded out homemade Italian sausage every holiday season and we stock homemade ravioli in the freezer year-around.  And, my late Mama Frances made the best cucidati (fig cookies) you’ve ever tasted. 

My dad was Paul and yes, I really did have an Uncle Johnny, Uncle Frankie, and Uncle Joey—almost every Italian family has a Frankie, Johnny, Joey or Pauly!  Oh, the fun we had when all the aunts, uncles and cousins gathered together.  “Did you hear the one about...?”  Thunderous laughter would erupt at the kitchen table.  My dad’s laugh was contagious; an outright snort.

Not such a laughing matter is that Uncle Johnny died of a heart attack at age 63.  Soon after, a heart attack took Uncle Frankie’s life at age 55.  And when I was just 27 years old, a heart attacked robbed me of my funny daddy when he was 67.  Frankie, Johnny and Pauly were chain smokers.  Uncle Joey had several bouts of congestive heart failure and passed on at age 77.

The American Heart Association (AHA) tells us that a tendency toward heart disease or fatty buildups in arteries seems to be hereditary. That means children of parents with heart and blood vessel diseases may be more likely to develop them.  Scary.

The AHA also tells us that a heart attack can be a life-and-death emergency.  In fact, every moment that a person delays in getting medical treatment increases likelihood of damage or even death to heart muscle.

Our community is fortunate that Emanuel Medical Center’s first-ever Cardiac Cath and Interventional Lab opened in April. Last week, Emanuel kicked off a five year fund drive to bring state-of-the-art cardiac surgery to Turlock and the surrounding communities, with a goal of raising $1 million by early October.  In fact, cardiac surgery will begin in spring 2011 in a newly renovated operating room.  Concurrently, construction of two new state-of-the-art cardiac surgery suites will be underway.

How blessed we will be to have these life-saving services right here in our community — instead of 30 minutes away.  If heart attack symptoms ever strike your precious dad, you’ll want these life-saving services within minutes of him — not down the highway.

The fact that heart disease is the number one killer of men and women is why my husband Allen and I have pledged to Legacy of Emanuel.  We want our hospital to reach its $1 million goal and even more important, we want cardiac surgical services right here in our community.  But we need your help, too.  Please pick up your phone and dial 664-5180 to pledge, so that when and if you ever need to dial 9-1-1, cardiac surgery will be just minutes away.  Tell them Pina sent you. Ciao!

Pennie Rorex is a member of and volunteer for Legacy Circle of Emanuel.