Johnston Firefighters have made many memorable rescues through the years.
None, though, quite measure up to a recent rescue Johnston Firefighters celebrated Monday morning at the home of Brunilde and Luciano Sias on Atwood Avenue.
It was a rescue that began several months ago when Richard Hartley Jr., Vice President of the Burrillville Firefighters Local 4968 made a call to Keith Calci to alert the Local 1950 President that a Johnston family had a special need.
Almost simultaneously, Rhode Island Pink Heels under the leadership of President and former firefighter Christopher Selenbrandt became part of what people Monday were calling “a miraculous rescue.”
In short, the Johnston Firefighters, who are well known throughout the state for their ongoing charitable efforts, were asked if they would get involved in building a ramp for Brunilde Sias, a one-time hairdresser who was born in Italy and who had just gone through grueling back-to-back lung cancer operations as well as another battle with brain cancer that resulted in her left side being paralyzed.
“Bo, Chris and Evan jumped at the chance to help,” said Jon Pistacchio, Vice President of the Johnston Firefighters Local 1950. “And they did a phenomenal job.”
“Bo” is JFD Battalion Chief Richard Boehm who Pistacchio said “organized everything and even got Home Depot involved as far as offering a discount for the necessary building materials.”
JFD Firefighters Chris DelFino and Evan Cooke designed and built the 40-foot ramp along with fellow firefighters Richard Guisti, Sal Martira, Scott Thacker, Patrick Brockway, Cody Pezzullo and Mike Letiole, who all took part in Monday’s unique dedication ceremony at the Sias home on Atwood Avenue Monday morning.
“I’m proud of these members for spending several days of their own time, especially during some of the hottest and most humid days of the summer, to get the ramp built for Brunilde,” Pistacchio said. “It was absolutely heart-warming to see Mrs. Sias sitting in her wheelchair under the canopy smiling, enjoying coffee and talking with everyone.”
The firefighters rescue mission also included Local 1950 purchasing a canopy so that Brunilde can sit in her backyard and enjoy the nice days.
“This has all been fantastic…amazing,” Brunilde, who despite having all but a quarter of her lung removed via those two operations back on June 11 and 14 then having to deal with brain cancer on July 23 and go through chemotherapy, said Monday morning with a smile on her face. “I was not expecting anything like this.”
However, Bo’s Buddies – as the JFD Firefighters were nicknamed during construction of the ramp, is made of pressure treated wood and looks as if an army of people built it – finished the ramp that would have cost upwards of $6,000 without donations in less than seven days to make moving about as easy as possible for the courageous Johnston woman.
There was yet another part of the extraordinary project that Boehm made happen, that being talking with Green Solutions about a possible discount for sandstone to complete a walkway – that the firefighters also built – that now extends from the ramp to the Sias homestead’s driveway.
“A huge shoutout to Green Solutions,” Boehm said. “The company wound up donating all the gravel.”
Brunilde and her husband Luciano, a highly-acclaimed chef back in Italy who she met in the Town of Torino in 1968, were obviously overwhelmed with the tear-jerking support from the Johnston Firefighters and Pink Heels that said from the outset the non-profit would donate $750 towards the building materials.
Likewise, Jennifer Dureault, the Sias’ daughter, was equally as appreciative and spent much of her time Monday morning thanking each and every person that had a hand in this special story as did John Luca Sias, her brother.
Even Angelina Dureault, a member of Johnston High School’s champion cheerleading corps, was thrilled and ecstatic about the love and caring the firefighter and Pink Heels gave to her grandmother.
“This is a special day,” Jennifer Dureault said. “We are all thankful for what you’ve done for my mother.”
Make that her mighty mom Brunilde Sias, who was born in the province of Sava Taranto, Italy and back in June battled through two lung cancer operations and was told by doctors she only had two months to live.
However, Brunilde Sias persevered through her many health struggles and although she’s still going through rigorous rehabilitation for paralysis of her left side, she can wheel her way down the ramp the Johnston Firefighters built with love and respect a women who is now known as a “Miracle on Wheels” and will hopefully someday walk again.