A Hero and Her Soldier

Story posted April 8, 2016 in Best of CommMedia by Lesly Salazar.

Angie Spagnoli knew she faced a huge challenge when she learned she was pregnant in 2008. She had previously miscarried five times, so she knew every moment her son stayed inside her would mean a better chance for him to live.

She dealt with complications and was often sick. Twenty-five weeks in, she went into labor. Seven days passed before Anthony finally made his arrival, teetering on the edge of life. 

She watched through glass as Anthony was kept alive with breathing machines.

Days passed before Angie could even touch her newborn child.

Despite her desire to stay with her newborn son, nurses told her she needed to go home (an hour away) because if she didn't, she wouldn't have the energy to properly care for him. 

At two weeks old, Anthony had his first medical procedure: heart surgery. While Angie worried about the possibility of learning disabilities down the road, doctors urged her to focus on the present because there was no guarantee he would live. 

Because of Anthony's condition, he was constantly provided oxygen. However, that affected sight, causing retinal tearing. So at three months old, Anthony began having eye surgeries. To this day he's had more than fifteen procedures done to his heart, eyes and lungs. He can't see out of one eye, and can't focus the other.

Money quickly became an obstacle for Angie, who is a single mother. She knew providing Anthony the care he needed would mean getting a good job. In the spring of 2013, Angie enrolled at Penn State Altoona. She's studying Environmental Science, and incorporates her love of the Earth into Anthony's everyday life.  She is on track to graduate in the spring of 2017. 

Despite his harrowing arrival, Anthony is now seven years old and continues to grow and learn every day.

(This story was created during the innagural Short Doc Workshop, a collaboration of the schools of journalism and film in the College of Communications at Penn State University)