I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about a very special man that was in my life, he was my hero, he was my father. My father was born and raised in Los Angeles by his parents, two Italian immigrants from Italy. My father always wanted to be a firefighter with the Los Angeles City Fire Department. He was a very special man, and always had a desire to help his fellow man. Then World War II broke out so my father enlisted in the United States Navy. He served his country well as a machinist mate 2nd class aboard the USS Bliss (a troop transport). After the war, my father worked odd jobs until he was able to live out his dream of becoming a Los Angeles City Firefighter. Whatever job my father held, he put his heart and soul into it and did the best job that he could. He lived, breathed and ate the Los Angeles City Fire Department. He made many friends on the job and truly believed in “The Brotherhood” that firemen have. While on the job, he worked side jobs such as he was the safety officer when they dynamited Chavez Ravine and built what is now Dodger Stadium. The fire department. was also responsible to have a fireman as a safety officer on movie locations and my father worked with the likes of John Wayne and Kirk Douglas. He loved his job. He remained on the Los Angeles City Fire Department. for 25 years until his retirement in 1977. It wasn’t the job that made him retire, he was tired of all the traffic and smog that comes with living in Los Angeles. It was his time to relax and enjoy his retirement in Carlsbad, CA. He still stayed connected with his “firemen” buddies and would meet monthly with a group of them for breakfast and talk about the job. Once a fireman always a fireman.
Sometime around 2009, I went to visit my father in the hospital and overheard he and my mother speaking about seeking an appointment with an oncologist. The word “oncologist” stuck in my head and I asked him why he had to see an oncologist. My father did not lie very well and he told me “Oh, he does other things besides oncology”. I’m thinking to myself “no way”. After visiting with my father, I went home and immediately called my brother and told him what dad had said. I told my brother that something wasn’t right. After my father got out of the hospital my brother and I went over to his house and confronted him about what I heard him say in the hospital. It was then that he told us that he had MDS and had had it for 4 years already. We asked him why he didn’t tell us that he had it and he said “I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me”.
I started finding out as much as I could about MDS and that is when I found out that there were no MDS support groups in Southern California. I wanted my father to get as much information about the disease and by starting the first Southern California MDS Support Group in Oceanside, I was able to get a lot of great speakers who had some valuable information. I not only wanted to help my father but we had a great bunch of people in our support group who became “my family” and I wanted to help them as well. I couldn’t stress enough for the members (including my father) to go to an MDS specialist not just a general hematologist or oncologist. My father had been going to a general oncologist who basically just gave my father over 80 blood transfusions, which gave him iron overload. My brother and I took our dad to the City of Hope and to Moores Cancer Center for second opinions, but by the time we knew of my dad’s disease and were able to get him to these two facilities there was nothing more they could do for him. My father got progressively worse and his quality of life was nothing. He decided he had had enough and he refused any more treatment.
Then on November 1, 2012, my hero, this man that had been my source of strength for so many years, was taken away from me by this ugly disease, MDS. While running the support group in Oceanside, I organized a blood drive with the San Diego Blood Bank and we had a huge success in getting a lot of blood donated and it was marked to be used only for MDS patients. My only regret is that my father passed away two weeks before we had the blood drive so he could not see the amount of people who so generously donated their blood to help people they did not even know. I was overwhelmed by the amount of Marines that drove by the donation site, saw the sign and stopped to donate blood. It kind of came full circle. Here were men defending our country (as my father did during WWII) and now donating blood to help people they didn’t know (like my father helped people he didn’t know by putting out fires in Los Angeles). I contacted the Oceanside Fire Department and shared my father’s story and that he would be so proud if the fire department participated in the blood drive in some way. They very generously sent a vintage fire truck manned with firefighters to the blood donation site, and stayed for the entire time speaking with everyone and letting them take a look at the fire truck. I was very touched by their generosity.
am now in charge of a new MDS Support Group and we meet at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Carlsbad, CA. I am now planning another blood drive on November 16, 2019 and will invite the Carlsbad Fire Department. Hoping they will do as Oceanside did and send a vintage fire truck with a few firefighters to the donation site. The public is grateful for all that firefighters do and I think it would draw a lot of people to donate for those deserving people who need it to live. Of course, it would be the icing on the cake if some Carlsbad firemen also came on that date and donated blood in honor of a fellow firefighter, my father (Remo Tersolo), my HERO. The Brotherhood…