About a year ago, almost to the day, we shared some time in this space about Franco and Lisa Marra. They are the husband and wife team who own Frali Gourmet Pasta Shop on Liberty Street at Tattnall downtown Savannah. They were beginning dinner service at their shop. No pomp or circumstance, not many frills. Not even wine unless you brought it in yourself. There was just good food, some good conversation and if you were lucky, a few of Franco’s jokes. Clever guy he is.
He looks good now. He’s moving a little bit slowly, but still very quick-witted. He admits to being confused sometimes when he tries to multi-task. If that is as bad as it will be going forward, he will take it. So will Lisa. After all, it wasn’t but 2 short months ago that Franco was in the hospital in a coma. It’s not hyperbole. He was on death’s doorstep. No one expected him to make it.
“I had not been feeling well for a while.” Franco admits now. “I had some shakes, but I figured I was just tired. Working too much.”
One April day like any other, Franco came to work and began speaking incoherently. “Lisa says she got scared because I wasn’t making any sense.” he says. That episode earned him a trip to the ER. Initially, they thought it was a stroke. Not long after, a massive blood infection was detected. At one point it affected 96 percent of his brain. Add to that, a 103 fever. “They had to induce a coma.” Lisa says. “The fever didn’t break for almost two weeks.”
Franco’s doctors explained the situation to his family. They were told to prepare for the worst. If Franco did bounce back, he would never be the same again. Too much of his brain had been affected. He wasn’t expected to remember anyone or anything. Motor skills and his ability going forward were anyone’s guess. All of that, if he survived.
Lisa refused to give up hope. She never did for a second. A few tablespoons of positive energy and couple of cups of faith, she believed, were the recipe to see them all through the nightmare.
Meanwhile, outside of the hospital, there was a business to run. Frali Gourmet Pastas provide fresh pasta to any number of downtown restaurants as well as Kroger stores and Lucky Market. “The Spring is also our busiest time for catering.” she says. “There was no way we could shut down, even for a day.”
To no one’s surprise, really, word got out and the Savannah community rallied. Social media did its thing and they even got some mainstream media attention. “People were showing up here asking how they could help us.” Lisa says. “People I don’t even know.” “I had a girl show up here asking if she could do my hair for me. I don’t even know her name or how to thank her. The cute couple from Le Cafe Gourmet came and offered to make bread for us. Everyone has been just amazing.” Lisa says there will never be enough thank you’s. “I’m still surprised.”
Franco’s fever eventually broke. The subsequent attempt to slowly bring him out of his coma did not. Not for a while at any rate. For 2 months, back and forth Lisa and their sons Matteo and Alessandro made it work. “We’d work all day and I’d sleep in the hospital. I had people offering to sleep in the hospital for me so I could go home and sleep in a bed at least one night.” She politely declined.
“We had 2 or 3 different people from The Landings who come to eat here come to visit. More than once.” Franco says. People at the Tybee Farmers Market were walking up to my 82 year old father and handing him extra money. Telling him it was for his son.”
Following weeks of delicate treatment and calculated decisions by his doctors, Franco eventually opened his eyes. It wasn’t long after that, he was talking. What had begun as a, quite frankly, death watch, turned incredibly optimistic. His doctors to this day cannot fully explain it.
“His doctor a few weeks ago sat in front of him and stared in his face.” Lisa says. “Franco asked if he was going to kiss him and he said ‘No, I just want to get a really good look at you. You are a miracle.” she says. She tells me there isn’t a single one of his doctors that doesn’t look at Franco now in amazement that he is still with us.
“I was reading about this bacteria.” Franco says “In 22 cases, 20 died. Only 2 made it. So I do consider myself lucky.”
Franco is even back to work. “I did some cooking last night.” he tells me. “Not too much. Just for 8 people.” He’s still being tested, obviously, for anything that may be off-center regarding his health, but considering where he’s been, he says he’s good. He looks good. Sounds good. And if you know Franco, he sums it up in a way only he can.
“I guess there were too many Italians in hell already. No space for fighters.”
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