He was one of the silent heroes who in April 2009, when the earth shook at 3:32 a.m. in the Italian region of Abruzzo – ravaging also the city pf Aquila – he decided that his place was with those people who were suffering, who had lost everything. Even at the cost of leaving his family affections for a few days.
That morning – Patrizio Giliberti recalls – I heard that there had been an earthquake, and once I reached my workplace, at the airport (he is a security guard) I saw those terrible images and decided to leave, go there and help them. “But the path was more difficult than I had thought at first: “I asked my chiefs whether it was possible to leave and their answer was positive; guaranteeing us also mission allowances, equipment, etc. Yet, on the same day, everything stopped: the headquarters did not give its approval because the costs were too high. Thus, everything seemed to have been blocked.
“At that point, considering our determination, the head of the airport core proposed a solution: leaving anyway, but at our expense and using our vacation days. We accepted, collected about 500 euros for the purchase of non-perishable food and supplies. In the morning of 7April we were in Aquila, at the camp in Piazza d’Armi.”
We met true pain there… “There were desperate people who could not find their parents, shivering children forgotten inside the tents, and elderly people who were crying on the shoulders of the rescuers. Those twenty days, memories of the terrible suffering of those people surrounded by rubble marked me deeply; we were trying to assist them, not only with blankets, but with the warmth that a smile, a caress, or a friendly hand can offer.”
Today, he is the one who stretches out his arm and asks for help. Nine months ago, Patrick has become a father for the second time; his second son’s name is Alex; but the baby is suffering from a rare neurodegenerative disease: Krabbe disease. This disorder provokes the loss of the myelin sheath, which covers – as if it were and insulating tape – nerve fibers. It is also known as globoid cell leukodystrophy, due to the peculiar appearance of localized irregular groupings of cells around blood vessels (called globoid bodies) inside the brain.
“We have no hope here in Italy – Patrizio says –. In the best-case scenario, we are going to get a stem cell transplant, but it would not be decisive in any case. It would only serve to lengthen her life by a few years, improving its quality. Nonetheless, it will remain a death sentence in three years at most. We have learned that in Pittsburg, United States, they offer a kind of treatment, which is completely unknown in Europe: a gene therapy that replaces the not functioning gene with a ‘fixed’ one, so to say. It does so with the aid of a bacteriological cure that activates an enzyme necessary for myelin production and disposal.”
They are waiting for a phone call from the American hospital these days, but for the entire cure, they are going to need $ 500,000. A huge sum they hope to find over time… Yet, they need to pay $ 100,000 as a deposit. Patrizio and his wife have gleaned $ 60,000, but they still need a lot of money. It is time pay back the generosity of a man who left everything and went to embrace those in need, those who had lost everything. He runs the risk of losing his child, and there is no stronger motivation to stretch out our arms towards him.
How? You can make a donation through a bank transfer to the local Committee of the Italian Red Cross Roseto, IBAN code: IT 73 P 070 867 702 0000 09 894 0000, or to the local offices of Silvi Marina, Roseto, Atri and Valle del Fino, stating the following reason for payment: “Aiutiamo il piccolo Alessandro” (Let’s help little Alex). There is also a Facebook page devoted to the child.
Patrizio does not hide: “I will do anything in my power for my children. My phone number is (+39) 392/3231201, I am not afraid of giving it. Anyone who wants to help me can call and talk to me. I am not afraid of being tracked down because I want to try all the possibilities to help Alex survive.”