Patient Heroes: Meet the Rizzas
Brampton couple Antonietta and Umberto Rizza consider themselves fortunate – their daughter Francesca says that, for the past five years, her parents have been “keeping their guardian angels busy!”
The Rizzas have turned to Trillium Health Centre on four separate occasions for highly specialized care that has saved their lives. Trillium is one of only a few hospitals in Canada able to provide such care in a community setting.
On a Saturday morning in fall 2005, Antonietta Rizza, then 53 years of age, woke up with an explosive headache, a pulsating sensation in her face and nausea – classic symptoms of a brain aneurysm, a weak spot on a blood vessel wall that can bulge out abnormally. A ruptured aneurysm can result in life-threatening stroke.
When Sal, the Rizzas’ adult son, found his mother passed out on her bedroom floor, he immediately called 911. His mother needed a specially-trained, interventional neuroradiologist to perform a delicate procedure called embolization.
She was rushed to Trillium where Dr. Dominic Rosso, Director of MRI and Neurointerventional Radiology, used image-guidance to maneuver a tiny coil through a catheter to the site of the aneurysm. Placing the coil in the vessel’s bulge prevented it from bursting. Such minimally invasive surgery not only promotes speedy healing with a lowered risk of infection, but can also mean the difference between life and death.
Five years later, Antonietta still feels terrific. Her faith and feisty personality help her juggle a busy home life with a full-time job as Office Manager at a local high school. “If it was not for Dr. Rosso and his team, I wouldn’t be here today,” says Antonietta. “The care that I received at Trillium was phenomenal.”
Umberto Rizza seconds that. Felled by a massive stroke in 2009, Umberto was rushed to Trillium Health Centre where our Acute Response Team and Dr. Dhanani and Dr. Izakawi saved his life. Today, Umberto is fully recovered, but the stroke took an emotional and physical toll. By nature a quiet, sensitive man, following the surgery Umberto couldn’t speak or see clearly. “I did not know who my wife was at first,” he recalls through tears. “I am more emotional now than I ever was, but I’m learning to control that.”
Every 10 minutes, another Canadian has a stroke. Trillium Health Centre is the regional stroke centre and a member of the Western GTA Stroke Network. Trillium serves a population of over 1.1 million people, which includes Ontario’s second largest concentration of seniors. The need for advanced stroke care will only increase as our population grows and ages –the risk of stroke doubles every decade after age 55.
The stroke also aggravated a condition Umberto, now 70, had suffered for some time – painful legs. In August 2010, he had some medical imaging done to get at the problem, only to find he needed heart surgery.
So it was back to Trillium where Dr. Gopal Bhatnagar performed a life-saving, double bypass. Asked to remark on his treatment, Umberto’s eyes fill with tears as he holds two thumbs up to show his genuine gratitude.
In December 2010, Umberto returned to Trillium for yet a third time. Dr. Marc Pope, vascular surgeon and director of the Vascular Laboratory, repaired an aortic, abdominal aneurysm and sent Umberto home, walking pain free for the first time in five years.
In 2009, Trillium was designated the regional centre for neuroscience services. These services, in addition to our stroke centre, include neurosurgery, neurology, neurological rehabilitation, spine care, and neurointerventional services.
Dr. Pope initiated the endovascular aortic abdominal aneurysm procedure that greatly improves quality of life for patients suffering debilitating lower limb pain.
From neurosurgeons, physiotherapists and social workers to vascular surgeons like Dr. Pope and interventional radiologists like Dr. Domenic Rosso, Director of MRI and Neurointerventional Radiology, Trillium’s specialists diagnose and treat life-threatening stroke, acquired brain injuries and aneurysms.
For Antonietta and Umberto Rizza, having such advanced health care close to home has meant everything. “Trillium is a wonderful hospital with a team spirit we’ve not seen anywhere else,” says Antonietta. “Both my husband and I knew we had the right people on our side and that we were in the best place.”