Lisa Scanio nearly lost her life giving birth to son Gianluca three months prematurely. She and husband Dino Scanio could have abandoned the nonprofit organization they founded and focused on their own dire situation. No one would have blamed them.
Instead, the Citrus Park couple found that their way of coping with a crisis is to offer a hand up — or more often, a leg — to others.
Volunteering is a way of life for these third-generation Tampa natives, who met and fell in love at a charity golf tournament in Carrollwood in 2002.
Dino, 33, a pediatric orthotist at Shriners Hospitals for Children, works in the same department where he volunteered as a teenager. Same boss, too.
Since forming the Foot Foundation (footfoundation.org) in 2007, Dino Scanio has traveled twice to Guatemala, taking orthotic devices and pediatric braces, each time staying a week to provide training.
The South Tampa Chamber of Commerce spotlighted him as the 2009 Licensed Technician of the Year. A year earlier, Physicians for Peace gave him an honorable mention as an allied health professional volunteer.
His next trip, in the spring, will be to Panama.
Lisa Scanio, 35, worked for insurance and legal firms, continuing even after son Giovanni, now 5, was born. Then the Jan. 30 arrival of Gianluca turned the Scanios' life upside down.
What keeps them going as they struggle with their own medical and insurance problems? The belief, says Dino, that "if we affect one person's life, they will pay it forward."
Gianluca, weighing 4 pounds at birth, spent 69 days in intensive care. How did you rally as a family?
Dino: Lisa experienced placental abruption and the doctor said it was too dangerous to continue the pregnancy. She had a massive hemorrhage as soon as she delivered.
Lisa: Everything changed that day. I lost half of my blood and I would say I was near death. Pretty much, one of us was at the hospital every single night until we brought Gianluca home March 29. I came home around 3 a.m. …
Dino: … and I came in around 6 before going to work.
Lisa: I kept a notebook and every day I wrote down everything that I observed and everything in my heart. Giovanni didn't see his brother for five weeks after he was born. He drew pictures and a welcome sign that's hanging in his room. We are very fortunate to have family nearby. He stayed with them or friends. He was a bit of a gypsy.
And how are mother and child doing now?
Dino: He's got his premature problems, some developmental delays and muscle problems. Speech and feeding therapists come to the house, and he starts physical and occupational therapy next week.
Lisa is still not fully recovered. A one-day surgery in June for postpartum complications turned into eight days, four of those in the ICU. Another surgery is scheduled in November.
Lisa: Four days after he came home, we were in an ambulance going to All Children's to have a feeding tube placed.
This is our new normal. Some days, I don't know what I'm going to do, but you have to keep going. We had a nurse coming two days a week, then the insurance denied it. Infection is really what I worry about. We hired an attorney to fight the insurance company.
It's not all doom and gloom. I am thankful for our children, but some days I just feel like you don't move forward. It's such a luxury to sit in the shower and get my energy up.
How, and why, do you manage to keep the Foot Foundation going?
Dino: It's always been a dream of mine and Lisa has the same kind of heart for giving. Other organizations go into factory mode … kick out all this work. But we teach the doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers and patients in order to leave a sustained level of care.
Lisa: I love that he does it because he comes back with such a fresh perspective on life and so much more grateful for everything. We see that there are so many other troubles. The fact that we can help them, even a little bit, helps keep us grounded.
You say you also raise money for one local Florida charity every year, such as the City of Angels. Who would you like to help next?
Dino: Lisa and I feel like a good way to honor our son, now that he's stable, is reaching others who experienced premature or traumatic deliveries, to help them navigate the system and advocate for their child with the insurance industry. I would love to hear from organizations who help people in similar situations.
Most people would give up, but we're already thinking of what we can do for a NICU charity. Our experience at University Community Hospital's Women's Center was most humbling. The nurses were absolutely remarkable. They still call and check on us.
Lisa: The nurses treated me like I was their own child.
What do you do for fun?
Dino: Jump into bed, all four of us, and watch a movie. Also I'm a home brewer, beer and wine, and that's relaxing for me.
Lisa: What's that? With Gianluca's feeding issues, it's hard to leave him. Once he starts eating food in October, it should get easier. We hope the prognosis is good and that this is all stuff he outgrows.
Reach Amy Scherzer at (813) 226-3322 or email@example.com.