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Carl's Blog

Message From Carl 8/9/2005

Hi, since my last post I have moved down the shore. My sister is a pharmacist at CVS in Philadelphia, and my brother Peter is working as a bartender near Villanova. Shane and Tyler are down here helping me and my new assistant.

Last post I was in the process of finding a new assistant, and after a month, I finally found a man who wants the job and who is coming to Villanova with me in August. His name is Soso and he was a very fast learner and is excited about the job. I hope my second year at school goes as smooth as possible and I have a good time.

Down the shore I have been doing tons of exercise and my shoulders and biceps are continuing to get stronger. I also have been doing lots of things with my friends who come down the shore, including going to Phillies baseball games with my cousins and Uncle John. The games were fun and I’m looking forward to the next time we go.

There is a new interview update from Patriot Cable on my web site, so check that out.

Thank you,

Message From Carl 6/20/2005

First I would like to thank all my supporters for their continued encouragement. Since the last time I posted a message, I finished my second semester at Villanova. Looking back on the school year I am extremely pleased with my grades and my decision to attend Villanova. Whenever problems arouse my family, friends, and administration at school helped guide me. A couple weeks ago my older siblings Kerry and Peter both graduated college. Kerry graduated as a Doctor of Pharmacy and Peter received a Marketing degree. I was exceptionally proud of their achievements.

My main concentration since school fished has been the search for a new assistant, because the man who has worked for me the past one and a half years retired. My dad and I have been interviewing many people interested in the job, but we still have not found a person who is able to go to Villanova and be my assistant. In the meantime my family has been helping me but it is not the solution. Working for me is a full time job and I don't want a family member taking on this responsibility for an extended period of time. Not having my own aid also restricts my family and my own independence because I always have to be with a family member who is able to take care of me. I am not worried about this problem because my dad is working hard looking for a new assistant, and my family is excellent working with me in the meantime.

Lobbying for continued stem cell research with my mother is another concentration for me this summer. The first week home from school I went to the state house with my mom and Aunt Linda to talk to New Jersey assemblymen about what I think of stem cell research and how it gives me hope for chance to be cured. This Thursday my mother and I are going to be on channel 8 for Patriot cable discussing and answering questions on stem cell research. After it is aired I will make sure we get the clips on my web site for anyone who is interested in viewing it.

Please continue writing notes to me on the message board. I enjoy and appreciate all the messages.

Thank you,

Update 5/16/2005

Carl is finishing his first year at Villanova and is studying hard for his final exams. I’m so proud of him; he is such a good person, yet he is tough as nails. This combination serves him well with his physical handicap. Carl could not leave yesterday for Mother’s Day dinner, because of his exams and of course Tricia and all of us were disappointed, but once again it shows how responsible he is.

Carl will be coming home next week and for me, him being in my home makes me happy. I'm sad every day he is not with us, yet it is important he has his own life independent of his parents. It of course is great that he is able to go to college and grow as a person away from his family, just like everyone else his age.

I cannot say enough good things about Villanova University, the teachers, students and administration have been great to Carl and we appreciate it. I want to give special thanks to mar McWilliams a teacher at Villanova, who has taken it upon himself to be the advocate for special needs students. He is a special man, who works tirelessly for these students.

Recently I had a conversation with Mr. McWilliams and he expressed to me his concern about Carl's overall mental health, as to the way he lives, carries himself, talks to people and just generally lives his life on a daily basis. He has dealt with dozens of special needs students and has rarely if ever came across anyone in Carl’s situation who has a level of happiness and self assuredness as Carl. He worries sometime that Carl holds everything in and will some day have a problem because of it. I understand what Mr. McWilliams was saying and I also worry about this, but maybe Carl is just that special, maybe he is so balanced and gifted with a better understanding of life than most of us. I hope this is the case, but when and if he ever becomes bitter or depressed his family and friends will be there for him. The fact that he has not had any bouts of real depression in two and a half years is a tribute to his special strength of personality, which very few have.

I thank god and most of all Carl for being the person he is. He has made the past 28 months a growing experience for my wife and kids are even closer than they were before his accident. I often lay in bed and wonder what life would be like if Carl was not injured, but more and more I lay in bed and think what would life be like if Carl were not Carl.

I have my answer for Mr. McWilliams. Please help Carl to continue to open doors closed by his handicap, keep educating everyone as to what handicapped people need and please keep watching Carl for any signs of depression or anguish because of his handicap, but maybe Carl is that one in a million special people, who understand life more than the rest of us, able to accept the hand dealt him and go on and have a life as full as anyone else, we live in a time that technology has given Carl independence that was unheard of just 20 years ago. Biotechnology has given us hope for a real cure in the future, so we will always be ready physically as well as mentally to get up and walk. Yet Carl will never sit around waiting for a cure he will go on with life, learn what he can do and find out how to do things that he cannot do.

Carl will yell at me dozens of times over the next 3 months, he will do some things I don’t want him to do, and he will make me proud every day. And one thing that I will guarantee when he goes back to college next September my family and I will have learned much from being with Carl. He is that special.

Thank you,
Peter & Tricia Riccio
Note: The next 3 updates will be written by Carl

Update 4/7/2005

I have just finished reading everything on CareCure, the site that informs the SCI community about what is going on in the world as far as research, politics, fundraising as well as every other aspect of life as a spinal cord injured person. I sadly have come to the conclusion that although there are many good people working for cures, the world of medical science is filled with false hopes, political nonsense, and religious fanatics.

My third birthday after my son’s injury is here. My hope has turned into despair. The scientific world has ground to a halt and the political wrangling and fundraising is the only thing we can read about. Six months ago, the talk was of a cure, combination therapies, clinical trials; people we know are good, made us feel that a cure was around the corner - this is all gone now.

It’s funny how hope and faith, in reality, are the same thing. We have faith in God and for that matter, that there is a God. We have hope that our loved ones inflicted with some disease will be cured, yet hope is given and taken away so easily by the people we are hoping will help us. The history of SCI is one of false hopes, over the past 50 years a new drug, operation, machine or whatever, have falsely given the SCI community hope. I know at this moment, my son being sick, no hope in sight, and an overall malaise. I am at a low and after all I am an eternal optimist so I will soon be ok and hopeful again. I just HOPE that my son will live a full and healthy life again. Where is the breakthrough? When will it happen? I am waiting.

In the meantime Carl does remarkably well. Although having some medical problems, he maintains good grades and does all his physical therapy. He follows his brothers’ athletic accomplishments as if he were their father. I know he is frustrated at times, who wouldn’t be. He continues to be the love of my life and the wind beneath my wings.

My wife had a meeting with our congressmen, Mr. Ferguson; the meeting was about stem cell research and SCI research in general. He told my wife, Mrs. Riccio, lets face it your son will never walk in his lifetime. He was not malicious, he was just saying what he believes in. Talk about lack of hope and faith in our research scientist. Maybe he will be right and I will be sad but hopeful my whole life, my son deserves that from me.

Love to all who care for Carl,
Peter & Tricia Riccio

Update 3/16/2005

Hi! It has been over a month since my last update. I’m sorry I never got Carl to write a letter while off the last week. I assure you he will the next time he is home. We have past the 2 year mark on Carl’s terrible injury. My hopes of a cure rise and fall like the tides. The last bit of news about actual science has not been as hopeful as I was expecting. The synergistic response they were hoping to get with stem cells or OEG cells and drugs has not materialized as of yet. I am however an eternal optimist and will continue to push Carl toward a future in and out of a wheel chair, whatever the future is.

Carl made it out to the districts to watch his brothers. Shane and Tyler took first. Then at the regions they both took third and went on to the states. Carl is very into his brothers wrestling and enjoys all the matches. He has a very tough life as a quadriplegic but he makes the best of it. No matter how good people are and how much friends and relatives care for Carl, the fact is that they must leave him behind in many of their everyday enjoyments. Playing football, basketball, parties that he can’t get into; these things hurt me as his father, but that’s the way it is and there is nothing anyone can do about it. He must make the best of it, be tough, and have a successful life no matter what roadblocks he has to navigate.

I would like to explain once again why there is a need for embryonic stem cells. I want to make it as simple as possible. I see and read so much about stem cells and the vast majority of people who are against embryonic stem cells are either misinformed or just don’t want to be informed properly.

Question: Why do we need embryonic stem cells? Why not just use adult stem cells?

Answer: The only stem cells that scientist have found that will live in the central nervous system long enough to change into CNS cells are embryonic stem cells. Central Nervous System(CNS) is the brain and the spinal cord.

Myth: We are killing embryos.

Fact: The only cells used are those that would be destroyed on a regular basis because they were no longer going to ever be used for having a baby. No embryos are made for the sole purpose of stem cell research.

The spinal cord research in this country has been on hold because of this on going debate. Instead of reading about clinical trials, it is a constant clash of pros and cons on stem cells.

Carl is doing very well at college. He has new friends and is doing very well with his studies. I hope he is cured someday, he is such a good person; if you know him you love him.

Thanks for your continued interest in Carl.

Peter & Tricia Riccio

Update 2/6/2005

I want to say once again, thank you for your continued interest in Carl. He is special and some day, he will do something that will benefit the world, I have no doubt in his personality and character. I will have him post a message on this website whenever he is home or on vacation. He will be home the first week of March so we could look forward to a letter from him at that time.

Carl just had his 19th birthday and the second as a quadriplegic. Two weeks from now will be the anniversary of the worst day of our lives. My mother used to say, “Only a mother could understand what I am going through”, when things went wrong, and I know that every parent can imagine what my family is going through under the circumstances. Sometimes I feel guilty when I hear of the boys and girls being killed in Iraq or of terrible tragedies that happen to other families -- I still do not know how they go on with such a loss. Thank God I have my son, Carl. He is the best thing that has ever happened to me. My family is my life, and they have rallied around Carl in a way that has made me proud.

Carl continues to live life to the fullest. He is doing well in school and works hard at his physical therapy. Of course he is missing a lot and that hurts me, but he is not the type to complain he just goes on with an attitude that is second to none.

Carl keeps up on his brothers wrestling careers and is in constant contact with his brothers and sister. We just found out that Carl will not be compensated for any of his loss according to his attorney. I called Carl to tell him and he told me don’t worry he will be fine. We will now, with the help of all of you, redouble our efforts for Carl’s golf outing, run by Carl’s two guarding angels, Jose Rivera and Denise Cappuccio. The outing will be an important part of Carl’s life. Living with an assistant and all the physical therapy is an economic challenge. I ask everyone who cares about Carl to attend his golf outing and/or dinner in October 2005 I will give exact dates and numbers to call in the future. We will be adding things to the outing such as a fashion show and an auction.

I continue to monitor everything going on in the world off spinal cord research and a hopeful cure. We are not there yet, but from what I have read, our hope is not unwarranted. My sources continue to be optimistic.

I will try to tell one of my good dreams and thoughts. I’m sure it will sound ridiculous, but our minds are unbelievable organs that produce thoughts and things that may have no logic, but are still of some value. I wake up every night from dreams about Carl. Sometimes about his life before the accident, and sadly, many times about that day, 2/22/03. I know this will never go away, but recently a new and vivid dream has developed in my brain. I then wake up and continue the dream, and think about it, and how I would have it come to pass if Carl was cured.

Carl, with the miracle of stem cell research, is cured and works hard, with me yelling and pushing him of course, on the side. He works so hard that he begins playing baseball in the backyard. Before we know it, he is ready to play and gets reinstated by the NCAA and plays baseball for Villanova.

I know this is ridiculous and corny, but what the heck, it makes me happy.

Thank you,
Peter & Tricia Riccio

Message From Carl 1/10/2005

Hello everyone!

I would like to start off thanking my cousin Mike McCarey for keeping this website updated with my progress through the past two years. I appreciate the messages my family, friends, and others have written me. Every time I read the messages it helps me to be mentally strong and gives me the desire to be as successful as I can in everything I do. In the past two years I have taken many steps in continuing to make my life better. Through exercise I have been able to keep my body in the best shape possible while finishing high school and completing my first semester at Villanova.

My first semester at Villanova was definitely a new experience. I had to adapt and change many things in order to be successful. I went off to college with my personal assistant, Fred, and I soon learned only relying on one person to help me was probably not going to work. I began to fall behind on my schoolwork and I had difficulty finding time to do my exercise. I went to Mr. Steve McWilliams, the head of Villanova’s special services, and he was willing and able to help me right away. Mr. McWilliams helped find a list of tutors and other students willing to help me with schoolwork and other daily activities. Having these people help me organize a schedule enabled me to exercise, eat, and complete all my schoolwork on a daily basis. By following this schedule I was able to complete my first semester with good grades, have a good time, and stay healthy.

In my free time, usually the weekends, I was able to make many new friends. I went out to parties with them, saw movies, and enjoyed the college experience.

My family was also a big help while away from home. My sister, Kerry, who was only fifteen minutes away would cook me dinner or bring me out to dinner once a week and sometimes help me with my schoolwork. My older brother, Peter, who also attends Villanova would invite me over his house to hang out or to play some poker games. Ryan, my cousin who lives right across the hall from me also helped me out tremendously this semester. He was always checking in on me to make sure everything was ok. He introduced me to many people and helped me feel comfortable in my new setting.

Even though I am enjoying myself at college, I still miss some things at home. I definitely miss my two younger brothers and my parents who primarily took care of me during the first year and half of my injury. If it wasn’t for my parents I would not be the person I am today or be able to do half the things I am able to do, such as going to college, without their love and support. When I talk to my parents and my brothers from college, I am always wondering how they are doing with their schooling and sports. I want them to be as successful as they possibly can. Recently I came home for winter break and I was happy to spend this month with my whole family. During this break, Shane and Tyler’s wrestling season has started and it makes me very happy to come home and be able to see their matches.

Another thing I was looking forward to this winter break was seeing my close friends from high school. I was happy to see that all of them were doing well and our friendships remained as close as we were before college.

I would like to end off by saying thank you to all my family, friends, and fans who have all supported me. I would like to take a moment and point out a few special people who I have gotten to know through my message board….

Carol Armbrecht, I hope you and your family are doing well. Thank you for all your messages of support.

To Eddie Lancaster, I think of you often. It was so nice meeting you this past year. I want you to hang in there and stay tough; there IS HOPE for us in the future. Don’t ever give up! (That goes for you too Carol)

To all my wrestling fans…thank you for all you support!

To Aunt Renee for all the hard work you have put in through the past 2 years…Thank you!

To all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and family…Thank you all the most…I couldn’t ask for a more loving and supporting family.

Thank you all! I want to wish everyone a happy holiday and a happy and healthy New Year!


Update 12/12/2004

Once again, I thank everyone who reads these updates. Carl is doing well at Villanova. Of course like everyone, he has bumps in the road that he must navigate and so far he has done a remarkable job. His academic grades are excellent and his mental approach to life is remarkable. The other day Carl informed us that he has not been feeling well for about 3 days. He had absolutely no appetite, but he told us that he forced himself to eat three times a day anyway. To me this shows what he is made of. He understands his situation. He never complains and he does everything he can to not only live life, but to excel in it.

Carl will be coming home December 20th but he has two exams that day so he will have to miss his brothers wrestling tournament at CBA on the 19th as well as the family Christmas parties on the 19th and 20th. He is disappointed but he'll see everyone when he comes home and at every wrestling match until he returns to school.

I'm not a philosopher, but since my son's injury, in the middle of every night of my life, I am awake for a couple of hours and just think about things - the day of my son's accident, what is, what could have been, what I am missing and what I have. These kinds of thoughts are both sad and fulfilling. Recently my cousin's daughter and a friend's son both died in automobile accidents. Everyday in the news we hear of young Americans being killed in Iraq. My thoughts go toward the parents of these kids. How do they go on? How do they accept the loss of their most precious possession? The answer I am coming to realize is time and good people. I, of course, have my son and I thank God every day that I do, but I must admit, at the same time I curse Him out and beg Him for a cure. I cover all bases.

Thanksgiving has just passed and Christmas and Hannukah are around the corner. For me, and my family, I want to wish everyone who reads this a happy and healthy holiday season and for those who have losses we will pray for you and hope you will have peace of mind sometime soon.

The next update will be written by Carl during his vacation.

Thank you and have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year,
Peter & Tricia Riccio

Update 11/16/2004

I first want to thank everyone who reads these updates, this means you still think of, support, and pray for Carl. As his father I can tell you it makes me feel good to know so many people care. A few weeks ago, Jose Rivera and Denise Cappuccio visited and gave us an update on this year’s fundraiser, which was very successful, and discussed what they planned on doing next year to make it better. I appreciate everyone’s support, and believe me, it is a great day for Carl and my family.

We were at Villanova last weekend. Shane and Tyler spent the entire weekend with Carl. There are many things Carl cannot do because of physical restraints. For instance, most parties are at off campus frats or homes where Carl cannot get in, and I know he would love to play in the football games that are all over campus on Saturday and Sundays, yet he goes to his brother and cousins football games, and has people over to his room on many occasions. As time goes by he will have to broaden his comfort zone and branch out to other groups and I am sure he will.

The elections, of course, were a very important time for us. Although non-political, we were very much in favor of stem cell research and so we were hoping for Kerry who was a proponent of all kinds of stem cell research. Carl was disappointed, but I pointed out that California passed a stem cell bond issue and our hope is that they will find a cure if the promise of stem cells is true.

Sadly I must say that our family has had negative feedback from people who are against embryonic stem cell research. The religious people in our lives have let it be known that Tricia’s open support of stem cell research is against church teachings. I have read everything I can get my hands on as to the scientific research going on in the world as to all kinds of stem cell research, especially as they relate to spinal cord injury. We do not know if we will be condemned by God because of our support of embryonic stem cell research, nor do I know if my son will ever be cured because of this science, but I can tell you what science has found so far: 1) Embryos are thrown away by the thousands in this country, never to be used for the birth of a baby, if these cells can help Carl and others walk, who would say no. 2) The reason they need embryonic stem cells is that they are the only cells that live in the central nervous system.

Unlike my wife I am not an activist for anything, I am selfish and single minded in my approach to life - I just want my son to be cured. I want him to move his legs and arms and live life as he did before 2/22/03. I would do anything to this end. I will never understand how some people would deny this to my son if possible. I can tell you I have no animosity toward anyone’s beliefs, and I do feel bad that some who supported Carl since his injury now keep their distance because of our support for stem cells.

Hope, like faith, is personal and intangible. The history of hope as it pertains to a cure for spinal cord injury has been well documented over the last 40 years. The hope for a cure was in Russia in the 60s and 70s. Then the cure moved to the western hemisphere in the 80s with special operations and drugs in Central and South America. In the 90s came the Miami project, which had its genesis with the injury to a famous football players son. Their work was so promising with the use of Schwann cells that Dr. Wise Young told Christopher Reeve, when he was injured in the mid 90s, that he would be cured by the year 2000. Now it is the promise of OEG cells (olfactory cells), stem cells (including embryonic) and drugs or a combination of all or some of these.

I do not know if Carl will ever walk, I do know that I will never stop hoping that he will. I do know that as long as I have anything to say about it, Carl will keep his body as healthy and fit as possible to be ready for whenever science finds a cure. In the meantime Carl will continue to live as productive a life as possible. He is an inspiration to me and to many others and when I’m with him I feel good. He will be at Watchung Hills homecoming game next Wednesday, and that will be the next time I see him. I can’t wait.

Have a great Thanksgiving,
Peter & Tricia Riccio

Update 10/21/2004

Carl was home on fall break this past week, and just like all parents looking forward to seeing their son or daughter after an extended period, Tricia and I were very excited. We were going to spend a lot of time with Carl, see some people, feed him good meals - just love him. Then I turned on the TV Monday morning and heard the terrible news that Christopher Reeve had died - I felt like a ton of bricks had fell on my head. The man that no one could replace, the person that was leading the crusade to cure my son, was gone, just like that.

My son was in a room less that 40 feet away and I was crying. I had to go to Carl and tell him about Christopher Reeve before he heard it on the news. I know how tough Carl is both mentally and physically, but Christopher Reeve to a quadriplegic was a person that portrayed strength, hope, intelligence and fortitude far more than any able bodied person could portray. He meant all of this to Carl and my family. When I told Carl what had happened, he looked right through me and, after a moment, asked what he had died of. I told him the truth - he had died of complications of a bedsore that eventually brought on heart failure. The same questions and fears went through Carl’s mind that went through mine. How could someone, with all the resources that Christopher Reeve had, have this happen to him. I told Carl to take care of himself, be aware of everything that happens to him physically, and pray that soon, with the help of the legacy of Christopher Reeve, there would be a cure.

Carl has been interviewed this week by two or three newspapers and magazines and has been on UPN 9 news as well as NBC news. I think that Carl can take up some of the slack that may be left from the passing of Christopher Reeve. No one person will have the clout of Christopher Reeve, but together, with people like Carl, his legacy will grow and his goal of a cure will be realized.

Christopher Reeve was the point man for Spinal Cord Injury. He was the man pushing for physical therapy advances, drug therapy, biotechnical advances, and most of all stem cell research. His bill is in congress next month. Please support the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Bill. Tell your congressmen and senators. This should not be a partisan, or for that matter, a political issue. This will help everyone and hurt no one. Today Arnold Schwarzenegger, republican governor from California, came out in support of the stem cell bond initiative in his state.

Carl and my family will try, in some small way, to carry on Christopher Reeve’s dreams and goals, my wife is a New Jersey stem cell advocate and involved in many political and medical groups trying to advance the knowledge and acceptance of stem cell research. We will forever try to help the cause of medical research so that Carl and thousands like him could live a better life

Carl returned to Villanova on Sunday and I miss him already. I miss his smile, I miss him yelling at me - I just miss him being around. I miss his interaction with his brothers and sister. He still listens to his older brother and sister as he did his whole life. His two younger brothers, he still lectures to, teaches, and complains to, and believe it or not, they listen to him as if he was special.

Thank you for your interest in my son. I hope to get the news articles and video on this site soon.

Please Dr. Wise Young, take care of yourself, stop smoking, drive slow, and eat right. Not for you, but for the thousands of SCI patients and their families that depend on you for everything. We lost Christopher reeves; we need you even more now.

Thank You,
Peter & Tricia Riccio
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