They are already New York’s heroes — and now they’ve become the champions of one very ill little boy.
Seven emergency medical technicians — from Lutheran Medical Center, Flatlands Volunteer Ambulance Corps, FDNY’s Emergency Medical Services Sunset Park Battalion, and Staten Island University Hospital — packed a van full of first responder gear and drove to Rustburg, Va., to give a very special Christmas gift to a 5-year-old battling potentially fatal spinal cancer.
Frank Chiaramonte — an ambulance man and recent lymphoma survivor who works for the New York City Housing Authority, serves on the board of the American Cancer Society, and donates his free time to Flatlands — met young Nathan Norman while they both were getting treatment at Duke University, and learned that the kid idolized first responders. He decided to give the boy a once-in-a-lifetime present — and asked his paramedic cousin, Joseph Scarpinito, for help.
“He knew I had a lot of connections, and he asked what I could do, and I said, ‘well, a lot of things,’ ” recalled Scarpinito, who works for Lutheran Medical.
And “a lot” is exactly what Scarpinito did, going to his police, firefighter, and ambulance technician friends and collecting hats, shirts, raincoats, helmets, toys, cards — even an honorary emergency medical training certificate with Nathan’s name on it. The cousins then packed it into a 16-passenger vehicle with five buddies and took off for smalltown Virginia at midnight on Dec. 6.
“The van was so full we could barely get the doors shut,” Scarpinito recalled.
When the crew pulled up in front of the Normans’ home eight-and-a-half hours later, the boy was ecstatic.
“I think he was a little overwhelmed when they brought out all the stuff,” said Cheryl Ellis, a friend of the Normans who helped arrange the visit. “He got so excited about seeing everything.”
The seven New Yorkers hung out with the Virginia boy and shared some survivor advice.
“I told him we’re all praying for him and we’re all there with him through this,” said Scarpinito. “That’s what he needs, is to see other people who had it and are doing OK.”
Nathan and his family insisted on sending the men back home with 200 bags of candy and toys for hospitalized children in New York, out of the boy’s concern for kids who won’t get to spend the holidays with their families.
“That shows you what type of people they are, that a kid who’s battling that kind of deadly disease is worried about other kids who are sick in the hospital and can’t be home,” said Scarpinito.
Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman