A loving heart at Christmas time

Dec 17, 2019 1024

BY: Charles Sacchetti

It all started in the spring of 1972. The perks of my job in Temple University’s Athletic Department included my use of the facilities on a regular basis. One particular lunch hour, I decided to go out to the tennis courts and practice hitting backhands against the big, green wall outside of McGonigle Hall. After about a half-hour, I felt what is best described as a dull ache in my lower back.

Over the next few months, the pain worsened, and I decided to go to the Temple Hospital Orthopedic Department to find out what, if anything, was wrong. Testing determined that I had a herniated or perhaps a ruptured disk: L5, to be exact. Over the next year or so, my condition worsened, and I underwent the usual treatment. At first, that included exercises, heat therapy, and wearing a back brace during my waking hours.    

None of this helped, which led to more aggressive treatments. I had two weeks of bed rest at home, lying on my mattress, which sat on top of a ¾-inch plywood bed board. I was allowed to get out of bed only to shower and use the bathroom. The bed rest didn’t help. I was admitted twice to the hospital for several days of “traction,” where weights would hang from my feet to relieve pressure on the spine. That didn’t help either. Finally, by August of the next year, I would try one last-ditch effort to improve my condition and avoid surgery: I wore a body cast that started at my shoulders and wrapped around my entire torso. The cast was the old-fashioned, plaster-of-Paris kind, hot and heavy, especially in August. I was in that cast for a month, and then we waited three more to see if there was any improvement. There wasn’t. 

Running out of patience, I spoke with my doctor and said, “I’ve had enough of this stuff. Let’s get the surgery done.” Of course, there were no guarantees of success. Back in those days, there weren’t any noninvasive, laser surgeries. I would have to be cut to have the disk removed. The disk in question was pressing on the sciatic nerve, which caused my entire left leg to be completely numb, and the pain was a like a toothache that wouldn’t go away. The hope was that the surgery would allow the nerve to regenerate over time, and healing would take place.

Doctor and patient were now on the same page, and I checked into room 939 at Temple Hospital on December 19th, 1973. My surgery was set for the 21st. I had an elderly roommate, a Jewish man named David. Dave was there for a heart valve replacement. Although very common now, this procedure was considered to be quite risky back then. Dave was a wonderful old guy, and we talked for hours about our families and agreed to pray for each other’s successful outcomes. On the 20th, the day before my surgery, with Dave still snoozing, I quietly turned on my transistor radio to hear the news, and what I heard was shocking: Bobby Darin had just passed away. He had undergone the same surgery Dave was scheduled for and had died from complications. I quickly turned off the radio, thinking that this news was the last thing ol’ Dave needed to hear. Fortunately, Dave was still asleep. Every time a nurse came in, I would tell them not to mention anything about Darin’s passing, and it was good that Dave didn’t like TV. I was able to keep him in the dark.  

My parents came to visit that evening. Mom gave me her little statue of the Virgin Mary to keep in the room. That night, Dave asked me about the statue, and I explained that we believe Mary can intercede on our behalf to her Son, Jesus Christ. Since we believe He is the Son of God, it is a no-brainer to ask His mom to help us. Dave had learned that his surgery would also take place the next day. He asked me if I would let him see the statue. I picked it up, gave it a kiss of reverence, and handed it to him. Dave looked at it, smiled, and also gave it a little kiss. He then looked at me and said, “I ain’t taking any chances.” 

Thank God, both of our surgeries were successful. I was allowed to go home on Christmas Eve. Dave had to stay a few days more. When I hugged him goodbye, it felt like I was leaving a good buddy, even though he was old enough to be my grandfather. As I was leaving, he told me he knew about Bobby Darin, after all. The lady who brought in dinner mentioned it to him while I was napping. He knew I was trying to keep it from him, so he didn’t want to make me feel bad by letting on that he knew.  

Talk about a man with a good heart!


Charles Sacchetti is the author of two books, It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change and his new book, Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch.   Both are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online outlets. Contact him at Worthwhilewords21@gmail.com


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