When Gaetano Picarelli was born Oct. 16, 2013, at Healthpark Medical Center in Fort Myers, he let out a cry and then stopped breathing.
He was immediately brought down to the neonatal intensive-care unit, where the hospital discovered he had a right side congenital diaphragmatic hernia and pulmonary hypertension, meaning the muscle separating his heart and lungs from the lower abdominal organs did not develop completely while he was in the womb.
The condition prevented his right lung from developing. Within hours of his birth, he was rushed to Miami Children's Hospital by LifeFlight, a team that transports critically ill children from referring hospitals.
Gaetano and his parents Melissa DiBiasi, 33, and Brendan Picarelli, 36, spent the next three months at Miami Children’s, where he had surgery to place a patch where his diaphragm goes, was treated with 12 different medications and was hooked up to a ventilator to breathe. Longer term, he has to have X-rays every six months.
It was a “life-changing” experience for the family.
“You can never imagine how it is. My sister went through seven weeks in NICU, locally with her family. I had a feeling of what she was going through, but that is nothing compared to actually going through it,” DiBiasi said. “We look at things completely different now.”
On Jan. 10, the family was able to return home. On Thursday, the parents will return to speak at the Miami Children’s Second Annual Gentlemen’s Night Out at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.
“The Gentlemen’s Night Out is an event that brings together gentlemen to share a night of networking while raising awareness for the Miami Children Hospital Foundation,” said Ricky Patel, one of the co-chairs. “The event will be featuring the greatest scotch and cigar sponsors, exceptional food, a hot shave, shoe shining and a great live auction.”
Gentlemen’s Night Out is the first part of a two-day fundraiser called All in Fore the Kids. The night out will precede the Miami Children’s 32nd Annual Corporate Golf Invitational on Friday.
“Under the umbrella of All in Fore the Kids, which includes Gentlemen’s Night Out and our corporate golf invitational, we raised last year more than $400,000,” said Lisbet Fernandez-Vina, director of external affairs for the Miami Children's Health Foundation. “This year, we expect to raise with both events approximately $600,000.”
Picarelli is grateful for the hospital for saving his son’s life.
“Without the hospital, my son would not be home right now,” Picarelli said. “Just the fact that the hospital is here is amazing. Babies don’t do anything wrong. They aren’t mean or bad people. How do you not want to help a baby?”