Commack Family Honors Life of Courageous Son with Fundraiser to Benefit Stony Brook Children's
DeMartises surpass $50,000 goal to name hospital room in honor of Mickey DeMartis
STONY BROOK, NY, October 23, 2013 – After Mickey DeMartis endured eight open-heart surgeries and 55 cardiac catheterizations during his childhood, Mike DeMartis thought his son had turned the corner regarding his courageous health battles. So it came as a complete shock when Mickey suddenly died at age 28 two years ago after coming down with flu-like symptoms.
Mike and his wife, Kathy, of Commack celebrated their beloved son’s valiant life and their enduring memories of his lifelong fight to overcome congenital heart problems with a fundraiser to benefit Stony Brook Children’s Hospital on Oct. 10 at the Watermill catering hall in Smithtown. The event raised more than $50,000, surpassing the goal set by the family to name a room in Mickey’s memory at the new Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, scheduled for construction from 2013 to 2016. The gift will be matched by an anonymous donor for a total impact of more than $100,000.
Stony Brook was one of three hospitals the Demartis family visited the day Mickey was born in 1983 with two holes in his heart and a defective pulmonary artery that was four times thinner than normal. He had his first two surgeries at age six months, with additional surgeries at ages 2, 4, 7, 10, 11 and 17 at various children’s hospitals in Boston and New York. His remarkable story of struggle and recovery received national attention in Woman’s Day magazine in 1994.
Against all odds, Mickey went on to graduate from Commack High School in 2001. He enrolled at Farmingdale State College and was only six months from graduation in December 2011 when he suddenly came down with flu-like symptoms. While at a local Emergency Department waiting on results of blood tests, Mickey suddenly died without warning, right in front of Mike’s eyes.
Mickey’s heroic life and long battle will always be remembered by the DeMartis family. Their many fond memories of their only son are tempered by enduring sadness and grief. Mickey was honored posthumously by SUNY Farmingdale with an honorary degree in technology in April 2012. And his memory was honored during stirring family tributes at the Oct. 10 fundraiser.
Mike and Kathy were joined at the dinner by their daughter, Tracey Passamenti, age 32, and her husband, Bob Passamenti, who works as a Physician’s Assistant at Stony Brook University Hospital’s Emergency Department, along with their one-year-old daughter, Michelina “Mikki” Joy Passamenti. Mike said their granddaughter has been a tremendous source of comfort and joy during their time of personal grief and loss.
During his son’s eulogy in 2011, Mike DeMartis said his son had taught him a lot over 28 years. “Mickey taught us three simple words: ‘I love you,’” Mike said. “He would say them often and with meaning. He understood the true meaning of love and lived each day loving everyone.”
“Mickey taught us to never give up,” he said. “He never lectured this to us. He showed us how to do it each time he went into surgery or a catheterization. He approached it with a positive attitude and would tell me and Kathy, ‘I will be back.’”
“He taught us how to overcome adversity in our lives. Each time he faced zero percent or 2 percent odds of coming through surgery, he found a way to do it.”
Mickey was honored for his courageous fight by the American Heart Association at a black-tie fundraiser in 2010. In his comments to the crowd, he spoke of his triumphs and struggles, including his dream to one day ride a bicycle. The dream became a reality when his mother bought them a bicycle built for two.
“I have learned to live my life one day at a time because I have learned how precious life can be and should never be taken for granted,” Mickey told the audience.
The idea of honoring Mickey’s life with a room in his memory at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital was first mentioned to Mike by a close family friend, Gary Bie, who serves as Chief Financial Officer at SBUH. Mike’s own ties to Stony Brook run deep, as he worked for the University from 1981 to 2001 – including stints as Director of Purchasing for Stony Brook University from 1987 to 1995 and as Director of Purchasing for Stony Brook University Hospital from 1995 to 2001. “He said he couldn’t think of a better way to keep his memory alive than to name something after him at the new children’s hospital,” Mike said of Gary’s advice.
Now his son’s memory will be forever preserved in a place he visited on the day he was born, at the start of an amazing medical odyssey and an incredible life’s journey.
CAPTION: Family and friends of the late Mickey DeMartis raised more than $50,000 for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital at an Oct. 6 fundraiser dinner event. The gift will be matched by an anonymous donor for a total impact of more than $100,000 Shown here, left to right, at the event are: John Bruno, Johnny Quigley, Kaylin Quigley, John Quigley, Kay Tromba, Terry Quigley, Laura DeMartis, Bobby Passamenti, Tracey Passamenti, Mike DeMartis, Kathy DeMartis, Michelina Passamenti, Bob Keefe, Joanne Morano, Lola Knight, Steven Willson and Emily Willson.
CAPTION: Mike DeMartis, left, stands with Gary Bie, Chief Financial Officer of Stony Brook University Hospital, and a photo of DeMartis’s late son, Mickey. Bie suggested DeMartis honor his son’s life by naming a room in his honor at the planned new Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. The family raised more than $50,000 at an Oct. 10 dinner event, which will be matched by an anonymous donor for a total impact of more than $100,000.
CAPTION: Mike DeMartis, right, provides an emotional tribute in memory of his late son, Mickey DeMartis, accompanied by his wife, Kathy, and their granddaughter Michelina Passamenti, at an Oct. 10 fundraiser dinner at Watermill catering hall in Smithtown. The gift will be matched an anonymous donor, for a total impact of more than $100,000.