On Saturday November 24th just after Thanksgiving my phone rang, as I picked it up to answer it, I saw “MY Matty” pop up on my screen. We had plans for Sunday. We hadn’t seen each other in 2 months as he was traveling from destination to destination just as he always had.
My time with Matty was always so meaningful and present. So I was so excited to have him back on the East Coast with me to make more memories and enjoy our long talks.
“Hey Matty,” I answered. His voice came through to me from the other end of the phone, “Hey Lovey, don’t worry but I had a stroke. I am FINE. I am in the hospital but there were no side effects and the doctors are just doing some tests.”
“What do you mean, you had a stroke?” I asked! At 43 years old this was Matty’s second stroke, his last unexpected stroke happened 6 years ago in Barcelona Spain where he was living and thriving as a wellness coach. During that time he also had no side effects and the stroke was unexplained. So when Matty told me he was fine and that we would reschedule our date I believed him. I got off the phone and didn’t feel worried at all because he was so calm and casual, as he always was. Going with the flow with integrity and enthusiasm for life was his every single day. The day went on and than the next day came and went. I picked up my phone on Monday to text Matty. I typed, “Matty, have you been released from the hospital? What is going on? Are you ok?” I got NOTHING. Something inside my gut started to tighten but I ignored it, because if something were wrong I would know, someone would have called me.
Sure enough Tuesday came and there was a text from My Matty, but it wasn’t from Matty it was from his sister from his phone. She was letting me know that Matty was in pretty serious shape and that he was asking to see me. My reaction was, “how serious could this be,” he called me to tell me he was fine. Looking at my calendar stacked with meetings I tried to figure out what I could move around to get to Long Island from Connecticut. Anyone who drives knows it isn’t an easy one, unless it’s first thing in the am or the middle of the night and there is NO TRAFFIC. I told her I could come Wednesday (tomorrow) or Friday, she said either would be fine.
During this brief exchange she mentioned that Matty had had an after math reaction from the stroke, somewhat of an after shock, like when there is an earthquake. The aftershock left more damage than the original stroke; I didn’t get more detail than that.
My heart tugged at me to make the trip sooner than later and I am so grateful that I listened. Moving my meetings, first thing Wednesday morning I drove to North Shore Hospital arriving at 9am. Prior to my arrival I received a text from Matty’s other sister letting me know that he had had a rough night and not to ask him too many questions, as he may become overwhelmed.
I had no idea what to expect, I came as prepared as possible fully loaded with my Rumi poetry book (that I bought at Matty’s first book signing in Huntington LI years before) and my doTerra essential oils, Frankincense the oil of all healing oils.
Walking into the hospital and signing in I found my way to the ICU where Matty was being monitored. I felt my heart race and truthfully nothing else mattered, I walked a fast pace through the halls, passed doctors and nurses making no eye contact. I felt like I was on a mission, it was just me and the sterol hallways, if anyone was going to heal Matty it would be me. After all he was MY Matty. My best-friend, my longest lasting NYC friend who took me under his wellness wing and healed my soul from heart break and loneliness and all of the insecurities that I had ever known. At least when I was in his presence I was healed.
It felt like forever but I finally made it to the doorway of his ICU hospital room. My sweet friend, there he was in his bed, to me he looked good. He looked at me with instant relief, and he pouted his bottom lip and scrunched his face in a sad, vulnerable sensitive state. I walked in with all of my big energy and said, “Matty what did you go and do?” The moments after for me are a bit foggy, seeing my best friend who was always so full of life, with all of the answers laying in a hospital bed in the ICU took my breath away. I know that it didn’t take me long to realize that he had no mobility on the left side of his face and his left arm. It was just he and I, like so many times before but this time there was something wrong, Matty was hooked up to so many monitors and IV’s. He told me what he could without me asking, I remember him telling me that he was on a medicine drip to help relieve the clot that still remained in his brain. He didn’t like how the medicine made him feel. Matty only believed in living the most clean and healthy possible way, healing the body with natural remedies, breath and movement. Medicine was a foreign idea to him on most days. He had meditation music playing softly out of his phone, helping him to relax. I pulled out my oils and rubbed his feet and neck with them. The room soon filled up with the aggressively inviting Frankincense scent. He soaked it in and took some deep breaths. I started to share all about my life, everything he had missed in his two months away. He pitched in with his Matty knows what’s best responses, some kind disapproval and some thoughtful encouragement that I needed to hear.Even in the most unfortunate circumstance he was still showing up for me. He was playful in some ways, telling me that he hadn’t pooped in days. If anyone really knew My Matty they knew how important regular pooping was to him. He loved to eat a meal or a snack and than have a poop. I think those two relationships were his most favorite things.
I could see he was getting tired and asked him if he wanted me to read to him. I pulled out my Rumi book of poems and in amazement he said, “ Of course you brought Rumi.” His words were processing slowly and his expressions and sentences were forming much more slowly. Through our time the nurse had come in to discuss nutrition, meals and vitals. While sitting with him not once did I feel or think that that would be the last time we shared a conversation. Matty’s Mom came close to 11am, in time for the arrival of Matty’s first meal of the day.
Yogurt and oatmeal, Matty didn’t really want it and with some nurturing convincing from his Momma, she fed him some spoonfuls. Letting him know that the food would help him get stronger.
Matty in that moment grabbed the railing of his bed with his strong right hand and started shaking it. “ I am strong.” He seemed slightly playful, but I remember feeling his sadness, fear and anger in that moment. A peace of him deep down was reminding us and himself that he was still strong with all of this going on! It shook me to my core. He than said, “I have to remember to breathe, I feel better when I breathe.”
Sensing Matty needed some rest, his mom and I walked into the hallway. I finally had a moment to ask what the doctors were saying!
Momma Anello gave me the run down, the doctors were saying he should make a full recovery, he was young and strong, and he would need some rehab to help with his brain function and mobility. I remember saying, “Ok no problem we will take care of him!” I would do anything for him. I envisioned myself taking him to rehab, having him stay with me, helping him exercise. It seemed so possible.
When I walked back into the room Matty was sleeping, I kissed him on the forehead and told him I would see him soon.
I left and went on about my day, off to my afternoon meetings, feeling slightly deflated but hopeful and positive that My Matty would make a full recovery!
Shortly after I left I received a text from Momma Anello that said, “ Matt just woke up and wanted to thank you for relaxing him.” What I would do to have more moments like that!
That’s when things changed so quickly and the whirlwind of Matty’s last days took us all by storm.
Matty’s sister wrote me informing me that the doctors had decided to take Matty in for surgery to remove the clot. This shocked me and seemed completely sudden. I was just with him; he was fine, she explained the clot wasn’t responding to the medicine. So brain surgery was the next step?? My heart sunk, now I was back in Connecticut in the middle of meetings, I couldn’t focus on anything debating if I should rush back to Long Island. Now it was rush hour and it would take me forever to get there!
I prayed, I prayed and I prayed more. Please God, get Matty through this surgery safely. God is not the same for everyone, the meaning and the power of prayer, but over the last year Matty jumped in “heart” first to everything God, Church and Jesus. Using the rosary as his meditation tool was his new found peace. It took me by surprise the first time Matty asked me to go to church with him. He was with me for support at one of my Dr. OZ segments. Eating all the snacks, chatting up everyone in the makeup room and in the green room. He had the staff calling him the “New DR. Oz.” As the segment finished up he turned to me and said, “let’s go to church.” I think I laughed out loud. The idea though felt nice to me. We were on the Upper East Side and Matty said, “there must be a church close by.” Sure enough we found one. It was beautiful, holy water basins and stainless glass windows, high ceilings and a true essence of peace. Matty found God and never looked back. He said he received a message as we sat in silence. “ I am Christ Consciousness.” How fitting Matty’s book is called The Secrets to Conscious Living, so it totally made sense that Jesus or God would send him a clear message!
As I prayed I remembered this! Matty will be ok. I guess in some way he is more than ok because he is now where he needs to be.
I waited for some kind of update; I couldn’t sleep all night tossing and turning looking at my phone. Finally 6am his sister sent a message letting me know he made it out of surgery and all looked good. The doctors were going to monitor him for swelling and hemorrhaging. I was relieved. He made it! My Matty!!
The rest of the day I heard nothing, unsure if I should go back to the hospital I decided to pick up the phone and call his Mom. She answered and this conversation will be engraved in my soul for the rest of my life.
“Elisa, it’s not looking good, Matty is gone we lost him.”
She went on to explain that the doctors took him in for another surgery because his brain was swelling and there was internal bleeding. Her voice was calm and collected; I was thinking this couldn’t be real. As she continued she explained the doctors used the words, “BRAIN DEAD.”
I will never forget the devastating, extreme sorrow that poured through me. I dropped to the floor, tears poured down my face and I couldn’t find my breath. All I could say was “I am on my way.”
So upset with a curtain of tears flooding down my face, I couldn’t drive! I was in the middle of a divorce and my than husband moved out and he is who I called. He dropped everything to be by my side and drive me to Long Island in rush hour traffic to get to the hospital.
Arriving at about 7pm just over 24 hours had passed since I was just with Matty reading him Rumi.
He laid in his bed just as he had been the day before but this time bandages around where they had performed surgery and no pouting lip, or half smile. He lay still and broken. Matty’s aunt was also there as she was able to give his mom some solace, and time to go home and rest. Again I had my books and oils, a part of me still believed I would be the one to wake him from this extreme circumstance. Begging him to squeeze my hand, begging him to give me a sign that he was still with us somewhere in there.
I think he was that night. His aunt went home and we stayed all hours, I just could not leave him. It was 4am before I could peel myself away from his bedside. Unsure if that would be my final good bye.
During those hours, the Doctor made his rounds and I stopped him in the hall to ask him why this happened. 5% of all stroke victims like Matty have no logical reason for why this happens. This is what he told me. I asked him every question, why wasn’t the medicine working, why did they decided on surgery so quickly, was there a chance for him to wake up?? He answered my questions kindly and finished with, “there is just too much damage to his brain.”
You see if you knew Matty, Matty would hate this. He would hate having no brain function, he would hate not being able to dance and sing out loud to every song, he would hate not being able to give his opinion, he would hate not being able to give a proper hug. His family told me that when Matty went in for the original surgery he was calm. That gives me some peace.
Leaving the hospital in what felt like a cloud of smoke, the next day I was broken. Completely broken, I have lost people, my sweet grandparents, family members, and distant friends. This grief is bigger, this grief feels like my lifeline was ripped from my whole being. This is truly one of the biggest losses of my entire life.
When ever I think this… That I lost My Matty… I hear him say, “I’m still here.”
I did get to go back one last time before they took him off life support. This day felt final, it was just me, Charlie (my husband) and Matty’s sweet family.
Saturday Dec.1st 2018 was the longest saddest day of good byes. Family came, friends along with Matty’s grandma, who was his everything. Watching her say good bye was something out of the saddest movie of all time.
The whole day felt surreal, Matty’s mom stoic kept her self-together and strong for every one around, the truest of Italian moms.
I stayed till the end. Everyone left and I said everything I could possibly say. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything, as those days felt like the most intimate, unconditional loving days of our whole friendship. I ended our visit by praying with his rosary, every single “Our Father & Hail Mary,” for MY Matty!
That was my good bye.