Born: July 11, 1920 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: February 21, 2015 in Abington, Pennsylvania, USA
Anthony Greco 1920 - 2015
Staff Sergeant Anthony Greco, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Texas Division, U.S. Army, was born on Sunday July 11th 1920 to Joseph & Filippina Greco at their home at 1413 Tasker Street in South Philadelphia. Sergeant Greco passed away unexpectedly on February 21st at 3:10 a.m. He is survived by his loving wife of 65 years, Frances Rose (nee Pancari), son Anthony J. & daughter Francine (Raymond Wisdo), granddaughters Gina Birchfield (William), Angela Greco, Toni Greco & Tia Wisdo; grandsons Brandon & Devon Greco and Anthony Wisdo along with 6 great grandchildren. In addition, he will be missed by cousins Rose Althouse, Bill (Fran Greco), Steven (Greta Palermo), Thomas (Donna Wells), nieces and nephews Janet Greco (John Eldred), Joe (Susan Greco), Phyllis (Joe Bucci), Karen (Tony Zopf), Jimmy (Jenifer Harner), Anthony (Darcy Pancari), Matthew (Linda Pancari), Rosemarie Raspanti, Gary Greenidge, Eloise (David Carnall), and Arlene Mulvihill. Tony was preceded in death by a son, Domenic and by an older brother Domenick (Connie) & younger sister Helen Harner (the late Norman) along with numerous inlaws. Sgt. Greco will receive military honors at the Washington Crossing National Cemetery located at 830 Highland Rd., Newtown PA 18940 on May 22nd, 2015 at 11:30 a.m.
Tony gained many valuable life experiences growing up during the Great Depression, working after school at his father's candy store and upon leaving South Philadelphia High School. He utilized his experience as the son of a barber, store owner and tailor to seek full time employment at the Joseph H. Cohen factory at Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue where he worked his way up to become president of the Philadelphia Local Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, prior to being called upon to serve his country when World War II broke out.
As was typical of Italian immigrant families, Tony’s family and grandparents lived in the same home on Tasker Street. Both Tony and his older brother, Domenick, learned to speak Italian at home solely until they attended public school and learned English. Tony also took French classes in high school, so upon entering the war he already had mastered three languages. Having no trouble learning German, due to his acumen and language skills, he was selected to serve in the intelligence squad of his assigned battalion, the 36th Texas Division. He started in combat in North Africa where he earned a Purple Heart after suffering a gunshot wound to his knee. The 36th continued to support General Patton, head of the 3rd Army as they invaded and conquered Sicily, the birthplace of Tony’s mother.
Their next engagement was landing at Anzio where the battalion suffered great losses. His battalion had their numbers replaced three times due to extensive casualties. Tony recalled the bombing of Monte Cassino and the bitter fighting prior to the assault which took them north of Rome as the “Gerries” as they called the Germans, fled from the Allies.
It was during this Great War where Tony's leadership and bravery came to the forefront in the three-and-a-half years he served in the U.S. Army infantry. He quickly rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant after earning his first of two Silver Stars, while still a Private First Class on December 15th 1943 during the Battle of San Pietro in his parents' home country of Italy.
During a night-time reconnaissance patrol behind enemy lines, he bravely sought out and charted enemy outposts and positions, clearly saving the lives of many of his comrades. This action was recognized and cited by Major General Fred L. Walker who pinned on the first of Sergeant Greco's two Silver Stars in this Citation dated 6 May 1944:
'ANTHONY (NMI) GRECO, 33325164, Staff Sergeant, (then Private First Class), Headquarters Company, Second Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, for gallantry in action on 15 December 1943 in the vicinity of SAN PIETRO, ITALY. Private First Class Greco was assigned the hazardous task of a night reconnaissance patrol behind enemy lines. He knew the information he brought back would be a vital factor if the planned attack by our troops was to be successful. By his stealth and expert patrolling he penetrated deep into enemy territory remaining for three hours plotting their outposts and fortified positions. His mission completed, he started back with the valuable information. His sensed alert to all situations and possible sources of more valuable material, he observed a canvas covered foxhole. Dauntlessly he approached with a ready hand grenade and pistol and audaciously kicking the canvas aside he surprised and captured two startled enemy soldiers. The information furnished by him and his prisoners of enemy mortar, machine gun, and outpost positions saved the lives of many of his comrades. His magnificent courage, calmness, and devotion to duty greatly inspired all who heard of his deeds. His gallant actions reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States. Entered the Service from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.'
Tony was extremely proud of his service to his country as his regiment was one of the first American troops to land in Europe, among the first troops to enter Rome, the first Infantry Regiment to land on the coast of Southern France, the first regiment in the Seventh Army to cross the Moselle River and the first of the 36th division troops to enter Germany. He spent nearly six months in Northern Africa from April 1943 until landing on the beaches of Paestum on September 9, 1943, under enemy artillery fire. They continued marching forward to Salerno, up through the hills of Summurco, and onward through San Pietro, losing hundreds of men during the crossing of the Rapido River just after New Years 1944, up through the hills above Cassino and Monte Cassino. Upon reaching Napoli in early March, he observed the last eruption of Mount Vesuvius and its most violent in 72 years. He received his second documented, but unissued Silver Star for acts of bravery during the crossing of the Rapido River. Unfortunately, many of his documents were lost at sea and never recovered. Other examples of heroism were cited but medals were never issued and Tony's humble nature prevented him from pressing the military for them.
To whom it may concern
Staff Sergeant ANTHONY GRECO
ANTHONY GRECO, 33325164, Staff Sergeant, Headquarters Company, Second Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment. “For exceptionally meritorious conduct on 11 June 1944 in Italy. During a prolonged attack against bitterly defended enemy positions along hazardous mountain terrain, these men, on duty at the battalion command post, heard that the litter teams had become physically exhausted and were unable to handle three severe cases still remaining on the mountain. They volunteered to go with a team and get the wounded men. They moved over precipitous trails under enemy artillery and mortar fire and succeeded in evacuating the injured soldiers in time to save their lives.” Entered the Service from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
John E. Dahlquist Major General, U.S. Army - Commanding
In May they continued marching north, through Anzio, liberating Velletri before reaching the city of Rome in early June, having killed & captured over 3,000 enemy soldiers. After freeing Rome from German occupation, the men of the 141st continued north through Tuscany and in August invaded southern France. After landing between Cannes and Marseilles, Tony and three other soldiers were assigned to meet up with 50 French paratroopers, as he spoke French along with three other languages, with whom they were to join forces. After firing at and killing 3 enemy soldiers while awaiting these paratroopers, they were able to take a fourth German prisoner who revealed to them that the enemy had shot down all 50 of the Frenchman before hitting the ground. At that point there was no reason for them to remain. It was during this invasion of France that Sergeant Greco was approached by Lt. Col. Critchfield, offering him a battlefield commission. Tony declined, insisting he would rather remain with his men who had fought so hard along with him to this point in the war.
Winter saw their regiment marching westward across the Rhine River into Germany. The fighting continued into late April whereupon Sergeant Greco first laid eyes on what he soon found to be a Nazi concentration camp at Landsberg. Walking with his team on patrol, Tony and his men began seeing scores of emaciated bodies lying around the forest, some hanging from trees, wearing what looked like striped pajamas. These GI’s did not yet know of the Nazi atrocities, but soon experienced the human suffering first hand and immediately arranged for the liberation of that camp. After radioing the coordinates back to his commander, Tony and his men awaited the rest of their troops, then rode in on tanks, breaking down the walls of the prison camp, liberating the prisoners and taking captive all but one of the German officers. This one, identified by a captured Polish officer as the main antagonizer, was not as fortunate as his comrades. The Polish captain grabbed this officer out of the truck and beat him before picking up a small tree trunk and smashing it down on his head, killing him instantly. Many of the prisoners who had not eaten probably for weeks or months, began grabbing handfuls of grass outside the compound. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, green fluid was violently ejected from both ends of their bodies as a result of ingesting all of these nutrients they had lacked for weeks or longer.
One of the stories Tony loved to tell was when he and his crew captured a German General and his command staff. Tony’s main weapon of choice was actually a German sub-machine gun, but he had to discontinue its use as the American soldiers would identify it as the sound of a German weapon. Tony adopted the Thompson sub-machine gun, to which he affectionately referred to as his “Tommy gun.” Upon confronting the General, Tony ordered the officer to surrender his weapon, a pistol. Military history and protocol came second to survival. The General advised Tony that he “would only surrender his weapon to an officer of equal rank.” Tony was a sergeant and not a commissioned officer. Tony’s response was “you will surrender to this” and then pulled back the bolt on the Tommy gun and fired a burst of bullets into the wall above the General’s head. I remember Tony demonstrating how fast the officer ripped off and dropped his gun belt to surrender. There was no more discussion on protocol.
Tony’s combat intelligence saved his life on more than one occasion. Once, while his patrol was looking for a place to sleep for the night, they spotted a convenient farm house that looked inviting on a cold night. Tony ordered his men to sleep out in the field. The farm house was obliterated by artillery that night.
Shortly after capturing Landsberg, his troops marched forward into Austria, when on May 5th at 18:30, all troops were ordered to hold in place and await further instructions. At this point, word was passed down the line that the war was over and they could finally return home. Tony was offered an appointment to lieutenant and continue his service in the military, but declined, only wanting to return home to his family, as he had learned his father was ill back in the States. Unfortunately, Tony's father passed away shortly afterwards, as he was misdiagnosed and placed in an oxygen tent with an aneurysm.
Tony was quite fortunate to return home not only alive, but without any catastrophic injuries, the exceptions being severe hearing loss due to the artillery and gunfire he dealt with on a daily basis, as well as a gun shot wound to his knee. Upon his discharge from the service, it was determined that he had no disability. Tony was more than willing to sign off on this in order to return home as quickly as possible to find employment.
As stated in a letter from his former Captain, Herbert R. Gelbspan, dated November 30, 1960, the reason Tony was placed in the Intelligence Company rather than front line combat was due to his hearing disability. He tried unsuccessfully for decades to have this oversight corrected on his record:
107 Piccadilly Road
Great Neck, Long Island, NY
“To Whom It May Concern:
I had the privilege and pleasure of serving in the Armed Forces with Anthony Greco for a period approximating two years. It is my distinct recollection that Sgt. Greco had difficulty in hearing as a normal person should which influenced me in assigning him as the S-3 Sergeant instead of maintaining him with the S-2 Section as Sergeant. The requirements for effective S-2 patrol duty were such that Sgt. Greco could be rendered useless and his work ineffective by retaining him in that activity despite a hearing disability.
May I further state that Sgt. Greco reflected the finest type of combat soldier that our army could boast of. No assignment was too tough and his cheerful willingness to serve reflected on the efforts of all those around him.
Very truly yours,
Herbert R. Gelbspan
Serial # 01301810
36th Infantry Division
It was not until the late 1980's when discussing his war record with another Veteran, Manny Glickman, that it was brought to his attention that thousands of WWII Veterans were receiving disability payments for far less than what Tony had learned to live with since serving in the Army. Fifty plus years after his honorable discharge, he was finally given a small, but significant, monthly disability allowance in light of the hard times he was now facing.
In an article written by Mr. Glickman and published in the V.F.W. Magazine, he stated:
“About service connected disabilities. If it is getting worse you can always upgrade it. Check with your local service officer. As a service officer of my V.F.W. Post 4014 I had the honor of getting my old buddy S/Sgt. Tony Greco of the 141st Inf. Battalion, 36th Texas Division an 80 percent service connected disability, upgraded from about 10 percent. He is also a silver star winner with plenty of citations. If you get the Nov. or Dec. V.F.W. Magazine you may see my article in it about Tony. I'm trying to get in touch with his former members about what this unsung hero did. I'm trying to get him the Congressional Medal of Honor. This guy really was something. I believe if his battalion commander wasn't rotated home he would have gotten it.
He went through enemy minefields to plot firing on enemy morter and machine gun positions that the Captain said saved plenty of lives. He crawled through mine fields to capture enemy soldiers, getting valuable information from them. He liberated a concentration camp while under heavy sniper fire, when the medics were too tired to get wounded men out. He volunteered under heavy machine gun fire and got them back. He was offered a battlefield officer position, but turned it down to be with his men. I'm really proud to be one of his friends. I guess the Good Lord didn't want him up there. Still waiting to hear from my other buddies.
Upon returning home from the war, Tony met and married the love of his life, Frances Rose Pancari, to whom he was happily married for over 65 years. While his wife Fran was pregnant with their first child Domenic, his brother Domenick's wife died during the birth of their second child. Tony and Fran opened their home and their hearts to Domenick and his beautiful children, Janet and Joe. Along with his brother Domenick, Tony opened and operated a garment factory Bethlehem Sportswear in Bethlehem PA, before relocating to North Philadelphia in the early 1950's and establishing Center City Manufacturing Company, at one point the largest manufacturer of boys’ dungarees on the East Coast. Along with having a New York sales office, his Center City plant had over 250 machines employing over 150 people until the late 1960's when the foreign trade undercut his prices and eventually put him out of business. Tony was forced to borrow against his life insurance policies in order to keep a roof over his family's head.
A "dyed in the wool sewing machine man", Tony, along with his sons, Domenic and Anthony, continued manufacturing and eventually began a contracting business on a smaller scale, earning enough to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. During the early part of the 1960's, Tony enjoyed summers vacationing at the Jersey Shore, owning two boats before giving up fishing in 1964, trading in his fishing poles for a brand new set of golf clubs.
He became a member of Cedarbrook Country Club in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania to which he belonged for almost 51 years. It was during this time that Tony established many lifelong friendships and at the time of his death was amongst the oldest active, honorary member of the club. Finally hanging up his golf clubs after having bilateral knee replacement surgery in 2003, he still continued to drive to the club on a daily basis, riding the golf cart, tormenting his fellow golfers, always looking for a group of guys to play gin rummy, a game he learned to master...he was the man to beat.
After his retirement, Levi Strauss enlisted him as a consultant, traveling to Guatemala in order to use his expertise to facilitate better work habits in their factories overseas.
Sights of torture and mass murder were things the Americans found difficult to fathom, something Tony was never able to forget long after the war was over. In April 2001, he was asked to share his experience with students at Chestnut Hill Academy as they were learning about the Holocaust. The children were so moved by his stories and heroism that afterward, each student wrote him a letter thanking him for sharing his experiences and also for sacrificing his own life for our freedom.
An avid reader, Tony would always read himself to sleep and read the daily newspaper from cover to cover each and every day, watching "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy", keeping his mind sharp, something he continued up until his final trip to the hospital. He loved to tell the story of how he would read by candle light long after his parents had gone to bed, classics such as "Huckleberry Finn", "Moby Dick" and "Tom Sawyer". Tony was known best not only for playing outlandish pranks on the people he loved, but always being the first to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. Tony became a true American Classic who is sorely missed by all who knew and loved him.
Tony enjoyed reasonably good health for the majority of his life. When his eldest son Domenic lost his battle to ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) on February 14th 2013 at the age of 60, he remarked repeatedly that it should have been him, after all, he had lived a long life. Just as Tony grew up sharing a home with his grandparents, Tony and his wife Frances, occupied an in-law suite with his son Anthony, his daughter Francine and son-in-law Ray Wisdo, along with his grandchildren Tia & Anthony Wisdo, built by his good friend Sal Paone.
Other than a few hernia operations, bilateral partial knee replacements, and a pacemaker, he continued to enjoy life surrounded by his family and extended Cedarbrook family up until July 12, 2014, the day after his 94th birthday, when he met with an inadvertent fall, which later proved to be what Tony referred to as more challenging and more agonizing than the 3 ½ years served in WWII. Tony called home that afternoon stating that the chair rolled out underneath him while playing cards in the men's locker room, and that he wasn't feeling up to going out to dinner to celebrate his birthday as planned. His son Anthony and son-in-law Ray immediately drove to Cedarbrook to drive both Tony and his car home. After acquiring x-rays, Tony was diagnosed with an intertrochanteric fracture of the left hip. Tony initially complained mostly of left knee pain, and therefore returned to the Rothman Institute, where he had extremely successful bilateral partial knee replacements 11 years prior. He received a cortisone injection, which unfortunately did not help. He was then referred to an orthopedic surgeon who immediately after the consultation admitted Tony and scheduled him for surgery that evening. Although the surgeon highly recommended hip surgery, he advised that it was unlikely Tony would survive the operation due to his age and heart condition. The surgeon followed up a few days later, again highly recommending the surgery while reiterating the dismal possibility of survival. He told Tony that he had lived a long life at 94 and should definitely consider the surgery. Tony and his family declined the surgery and opted for a second opinion. Tony was then told that the fracture was healing, and that surgery was not recommended. Although Tony was in constant pain since his fall, he was able to get around with the assistance of a walker, still frequenting Cedarbrook, no longer independently, but instead with the assistance of his son Anthony and a wheelchair.
Tony's visits to Cedarbrook dwindled after reinjuring his hip during a second fall, while reaching for his clothes in his bedroom closet during the week of Thanksgiving. Although he required assistance getting to his feet, he was still ambulatory, able to independently shower, dress, and handle his activities of daily living with the assistance of a walker. A second x-ray showed the healing of the old fracture, and also showed a new fracture in the intertrochanteric region. It was then decided that he should be evaluated more thoroughly, and he was admitted to the hospital on December 9, 2014.
Tony met with some of the best and brightest health care professionals in the Philadelphia area, trying to determine how best to help him. Because surgery was being considered, Tony went without food and water, despite his family's request that the order be lifted at the end of each day, until the third day when his mental status started to decline and his body showed signs of dehydration. It was shortly thereafter, that it was decided that surgery was too risky, and that even if he survived the surgery itself, it was unlikely he would survive the complications of an operation. It was also suggested that the fractures were pathologic in nature, metastasis to the left hip with a primary tumor of unknown origin. A previous bone scan was negative for a primary tumor, but showed increased uptake in the left hip and knee, indicative of a fracture. All blood work was negative for cancer as well. However, Tony sustained two fractures, both after a fall, but the x-rays and cat scans were thought to look suspicious. It was recommended that he undergo one radiation treatment, as it was determined that one massive treatment was as effective as numerous smaller treatments. His family was told that if it wasn't cancer, it wouldn't hurt him, but if it was, it could help tremendously.
The following morning, on December 13th, Tony was to be transferred to a new facility for the weekend to learn pain management techniques in order to assist him upon returning home. For the first time since his admission, Tony enjoyed breakfast, read the newspaper, conversed in both Italian and French with the husband and wife who occupied the adjoining bed in his hospital room, and deferred his 7 a.m. pain medication. He was looking forward to the transfer, as it meant he was one step closer to returning to his family and the comfort of his home.
Despite Tony and his family's numerous requests to the hospital staff to provide him with a comfortable, stable transfer, due to the unstable nature of his fracture, the transport turned into a disaster. While transferring him during his hospital stay, a lift was utilized to stabilize Tony's left hip, which his nurse stated they were unable to use to transport him to the new facility. His family offered to return it immediately after the transfer, but again they were told that this was not possible. Tony's family asked the nursing staff to please stabilize his left hip, but they were told there was nothing they could do, that the ride was a short one and that he would be fine.
As soon as they lifted and transferred Tony to the gurney from the hospital bed, he began to scream uncontrollably. He continued to scream begging someone to help him, as he stated repeatedly that he felt like he had been broken in two. He continued to scream down the hallway while his family begged the nurses at every station for their assistance. His agony continued while in the elevator and throughout the hallways on the ground floor. His family banged on the glass doors along the ground floor, continuing to ask for help, but, again, to no avail. Once in the transport vehicle, Tony was bounced around and his family was bounced off of the bench while trying to stabilize his hip with their hands, as the transport vehicle drove over one bump and pothole after another. His family would never forget the wild look of terror in Tony's eyes. By the time Tony reached the new facility nearly an hour later, his blood pressure, which had been normal during his hospital stay registered at 199/99, although his family was told this may not have been accurate. Tony continued to scream upon arrival to the new facility and during the transfer from the gurney to the new hospital bed. The staff told the family that they needed to address his pain immediately and he was given a buffet of pain medications as well as benzodiazepines to calm him down. It was obvious to Tony's family that something was terribly wrong with his left hip, as his leg was completed rotated. Shortly thereafter, Tony's mental status was completely compromised, as he was no longer able to communicate intelligibly, and he did not recognize his family or comprehend where he was. He was highly agitated and appeared to be having adverse reactions to some of the medications.
The staff ordered additional medications to help with the adverse reactions, but somehow they were delivered to the basement, and therefore, Tony never received them until the following day.
The family requested to see a doctor or order an x-ray to see why he was in so much pain. The staff told Tony's family that he would have to be taken back to the hospital, because the doctor on call was not available and they did not have access to x-ray.
Tony's family was also told that he was loaded with cancer, that he had terminal agitation and probably would not survive the weekend. Tony suffered terribly from the moment he was transferred from the hospital bed to the gurney and throughout the night in the new facility. This was a drastic change from the previous morning, prior to the transport, which proved to be a game changer from the fairly independent life he had previously known.
Although the transport from the facility to his residence went reasonably well, as his hip was stabilized properly, Tony and his family were not prepared for what was to follow. But after what Tony had just endured, his family knew they had to do their best to take care of him at home.
During his first week at home, Tony remained unaware of where he was, and at times did not even know his family members. Oftentimes, he thought he was back in the Infantry, and gave his family instructions on where to stand post. At other times, he thought he was at the club playing cards or on the golf course. He was highly agitated, in exquisite pain, uninterested in food or water, reading the paper, or watching TV. His grandchildren were frightened by their grandfather's behavior, as he was only a shell of the man they knew and loved. Although the medications he was given were said to be short acting, they took their toll on his 94-year-old body.
Tony was undeniably in sheer agony with only the slightest of movements, and no one realized the extent of the damage which was done by the initial transport until he indicated he needed to use the commode for the first time. It took three family members to lift him from his recliner, while he screamed uncontrollably. His left hip was protruding and his leg was dangling. There was marked swelling from his flank area clear down to his foot. Thankfully his right leg was completely normal and he was therefore able to use it to bear weight and pivot.
After a great deal of effort to schedule, a mobile x-ray facility came to the house, and although agonizing for Tony to endure and his family to witness, the technician was able to take the necessary views which revealed what his family had already suspected.
As a direct result of the initial transfer from the hospital to the facility, Tony's hip fracture had extended down into his femur, and his hip fracture was now displaced. His family tried numerous times to reach the hospital staff to discuss what options Tony had, as they could not imagine anyone having to live their life in such agony. An outside surgeon requested stat records to see if he could help, but for some reason, it took weeks before anyone responded. Finally, the family received a return call from the hospital and they were told that no one was willing to perform surgery, as the outcome would be devastating for Tony.
Tony's bravery and heroism shone through during the next two months, demonstrating the depth and strength of his constitution. Nights were the most challenging for Tony, and his family took shifts so that he was never alone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tony had his days and nights mixed up from all the pain mediation, as well as insisted that he saw activity on his right side, some one sitting next to him, a little boy dancing, etc. His family was told he might have had a mini stroke during the transport, or a retinal hemorrhage, perhaps due to his elevated blood pressure from both the horrific pain he endured and from his extensive screaming. Unfortunately, being sedentary opened up a whole gamut of health issues, but Tony fought hard to keep them at bay. Physical therapy and occupational therapy, as well as home health care visits, became part of Tony's new lifestyle.
Finally, in early February, Tony's mental status had markedly improved, he was somewhat comfortable, with nothing more than Tylenol to ease his pain, which only occurred after being transferred. Although extremely painful, he insisted on coming to the kitchen table to join the family for mealtime, as it was a change of scenery from his view from his recliner, where he spent the majority of his days and nights since losing complete use of his left leg in mid-December.
The transport still required three family members to move him, as his hip was displaced, and his leg dangled. No matter who came to see him or called him on the phone, he mustered up all his strength and put on a brave front. Comments such as, “You sound terrific, or you look amazing for what you are going through” were commonly heard by Tony and his family. No one knew the cries of sheer agony, the despair his family felt as they watched Tony suffer round the clock, knowing nothing could be done to help him.
Every morning, each family member would be met with a great big “Good morning,” no matter how much Tony had suffered during the night. His face lit up like a match when his grandson would enter the room before leaving for school, or when his granddaughter would come home for a surprise visit from college. He looked forward to the phone calls he received from his “Cedarbrook” family, the men who shared his “home away from home”, with whom he played cards in the locker room, or tormented on the golf course, and last but certainly not least, the morning and evening kiss from his wife of 65 years.
On Tuesday, February 17th, Tony's family gathered to celebrate his son-in-law's 60th birthday. Tony not only asked for a second helping of corn beef and cabbage, he even asked for a generous slice of ice cream cake. The following evening, however, when Tony was transferred from his wheel chair to his recliner, he tried to grab on to his son-in-law's arm, and he let out a yell. He seemed fine after that until about 10:30 p.m. that evening, when he said the pain on his left side was throbbing and burning. When his family removed his shirt, there was marked swelling around his pacemaker. His family immediately contacted the on-call nurse and primary care doctor, as well as his cardiologist. They were told to give him morphine for pain and to bring him to the ER if his condition did not improve. His family asked if his pacemaker could be remotely interrogated, but it could not. Around 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning, Tony finally seemed much more comfortable, however, he was not interested in food or water, the newspaper or TV, which was always the case after being given morphine in the past. He was slightly agitated, but perked up when the physical therapist came to see him. He was able to move his left arm without too much discomfort, and conversed with him just as he always did when he came for his therapy session.
Tony's family offered him food and water throughout the day, but he declined. On Friday morning he was told that he hadn't had anything to eat or drink the previous day and he seemed surprised. He asked for a glass of water and a cup of butternut squash soup that his son had made the day before. While taking his handkerchief out of his shirt pocket, he accidentally dropped his money. He became extremely agitated and spilled some soup on his lap. His eyes rolled back in his head, but he was still responsive.
The ambulance was quickly called, and by the time they arrived, Tony thanked them for coming out in the 1 degree weather, but told them that he was fine and that they could leave. When his shirt was lifted it revealed marked bruising under his left arm. His lips were pale and it was evident that he needed medical attention. Because he had been taking Coumadin for many years for atrial fibrillation, he bruised very easily. His family made several calls trying to see if it was possible to have him transfused at home, so that he did not have to go through the agony of another ambulance transport, and another extended ER visit, but his family was told that it was not possible. When his family told Tony he needed to go to the hospital for transfusions, he said, “What are we waiting for? Let's go!”
The ambulance staff did their best to transport Tony from his recliner to the gurney and stabilize his left hip. Tony lived in his recliner since his hip had been displaced, so this was the first time since mid-December that he was placed in a lying down position. He was not comfortable, but he acquiesced.
When Tony's family joined him as he was being removed from the back of the ambulance upon entering the emergency room, he was talking, but he was clearly not very comfortable. Although his family tried to inform (WARN) the hospital staff about Tony's displaced left hip fracture, his family was told that they needed to leave the room and allow them to do their job. The emergency staff built up a hard wall in the middle of the gurney to remove Tony's pants, after scissoring through his brand new sweater. Tony's family begged them not to turn him on his left side, but again they were told they would have (NEED) to leave. Tony's family watched in horror as he was turned first on the side of his fracture, over the hard hump in the middle of the gurney, and then to the other side, while Tony screamed in agony.
He begged them to stop and said, “I thought I was here to get blood! Why are your torturing me? What did I ever do to deserve this?”
Tony's family felt helpless as they looked in his eyes and saw the same wild look of terror they had seen during his transport from the hospital to the facility back in December. He screamed and screamed until the nursing staff administered enough pain medication causing him to stop.
One ER doctor came in to explain that Tony's hemoglobin was a 5.9, which had fallen from an 8.3 from the prior week. Tony had Mediterranean Anemia and therefore an 8.3 was a typical value for him. She also stated that Tony's creatinine was over a 3.0 and that he was in kidney failure. When his family looked at the actual records his creatinine was a 2.13, which was lower than it had been previously when he was in heart failure in early 2014. Tony was dehydrated, he had recently been given a double dose of colchicine for symptoms of gout as per his nurse practitioner, and he had ruptured blood vessels, which were all reasons for his creatinine level to be elevated. The hospital staff required a urine sample, and Tony screamed as they forced an unlubricated catheter passed his extremely enlarged prostate so that they could collect the specimen. He was also given Levaquin for a “possible” pneumonia, which caused a red streak up his arm. This particular antibiotic should be given cautiously to patients with renal impairment, particularly to the elderly.
Tony's family questioned the diagnosis of pneumonia, as Tony had swelling on his left chest wall from his recent injury, and a lateral x-ray was never acquired. Shortly afterwards, Tony and his family were told that Tony needed to return home and be placed on hospice or be moved to their hospice floor, as there was nothing more they could do for him. Tony's ER nurse had been extremely short tempered and rough with Tony, grabbing his arm to administer medications, taking blood pressures, etc. Tony remarked at how he was being treated with such animosity and asked why. Another ER doctor came in the room and told Tony's family that he would never have given Tony the transfusions, or any other medical attention. He stated that Tony was going to die and we should just let nature take its course. Before long, it was determined that Tony should go home, and all monitors were disconnected. Tony's family had been told several times in 2013 and 2014 that Tony's lab values were critical and that it would just be a matter of time, but Tony lived a reasonably full life up until his hip fracture.
Tony's family decided that under the circumstances, it was best to take him home, and the nursing staff gave Tony additional pain medication as well as an additional dose of Benydryl to keep him comfortable during the transport. His family was frightened and immediately contacted Tony's primary doctor who told the ER staff that Tony was to be admitted and given the care he needed.
Unfortunately, Tony was completely unresponsive from all the pain medication he had been administered, and he could not be aroused. His body and his hands were ice cold, and he appeared to be in a very deep sleep. His family tried several times to speak to the ER doctor or his nurse, but they could not be located. Tony remained in the ER for over 13 hours before finally being admitted to a room. The nurse upstairs asked if Tony had been on oxygen as he was just under 100% on room air, but he had not.
Tony was extremely agitated during and after the transfer upstairs and the nurse wanted to check for bed sores. Tony's family explained what had happened previously in the ER when Tony was admitted and she took great care while turning him onto the opposite side of his fracture, while stabilizing his displaced hip.
Tony remained agitated during the hour since his transfer from the ER, until all of a sudden his eyes opened as wide as saucers. Tony's son-in-law held his hand, sat next to Tony on the bed, and asked Tony if he was OK, but Tony did not answer. It was approximately 3:00 a.m. and Tony's daughter had just finished saying out loud to an empty room, “Dad, I am so sorry you are going through this all over again. I promised you it would be OK, and it definitely isn't OK. If you don't want to do this anymore, I understand, we all will. We all love you so much and are grateful for everything you have done for us.” Seconds later, her cell phone rang. Tony's son-in-law said, “We're losing him.” He told Tony his daughter was on the phone and Tony turned his head to listen. “Dad, we all love you very much. I am so sorry that I couldn't do more for you. We will all miss you very much. Dad...Dad?” But the voice on the other end of the phone said, “He's gone.” Staff Sergeant Anthony Greco, All-American Hero, and hero to his family, passed away at 3:10 a.m. on Saturday, February 21st.
“The saddest moment is when the person who gave you the best memories becomes a memory.”
“Gone from our sight, but never our memories. Gone from our touch but never our hearts.”
“Death is merely an illusion. Your loved ones are all around you, just at a faster vibration. Love like life will never die."
“Grief never ends...But it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith...It is the price of love.”