“When you come to the edge of all the light you have known and are about to step out in to the darkness…Faith is knowing one of two things will happen…There will be something to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.”
–Patrick Overton – Poem “Faith” from his book “The Leaning Tree”
Frank J Reali, III was born on June 6, 1970. He was an energetic and active Staten Island boy who grew up playing sports and performing all the activities of healthy kids his age. Throughout his life, Frank achieved much success both personally, athletically and professionally.
He was a loving father, son, and friend. As an involved and well known community member, Frank often gave back as he was intricately involved in building and developing the family real estate business with his parents, Fran and Frank Reali Jr.
No one saw tragedy coming. It struck in an instant on April 29, 2007. Suddenly, Frank was gone and the lives of the Realis’ would forever change.
Death of a loved one, birth of a cause
The family and the world lost Frank J Reali, III to a massive heart attack while he was alone in his real estate office. His death was a shock and a mystery that left many unanswered questions.
Following the autopsy, the Realis were stunned to learn that Frank had suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), one of several heart conditions known as Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes.
HCM is characterized by a thickening of the heart muscle. The genetic disorder is estimated to affect one in 500 people and can lead to sudden cardiac death if untreated.
As an athlete, Frank may have experienced symptoms of HCM, such as shortness of breath and chest pain. But no matter how good an athlete the child is or how great a physical shape he or she is in, they have no way of knowing they have this problem without testing.
Fran Reali lamented, “When you’re young, you don’t think anything is wrong…That’s the reason why it’s sudden cardiac death. Most of the symptoms are so mild or so easily misinterpreted as a little agita, or overexertion or too much stress…The last symptom you have is death.”
Instead of giving in to their grief, the Reali family decided to start a foundation in their son’s name to help screen today’s youth to prevent such deaths in the future. Using Frank as the beacon, their goal has been to immortalize Frank’s image and spirit as the identity and inspiration of the foundation.
The shocking truth was that we didn’t know
It was the “not knowing” why Frank died that was the most profound and shocking thing for the family. The Realis’ did not find out for a month that Frank had died from a congenital heart condition he probably had since birth.
How many other wonderful, happy young people have a hidden danger inside? This foundation’s goal is to find out now, before the worse happens.
Parents find it difficult to think beyond the pride and joy of seeing their child excel at sports to first consider whether their son or daughter is physically able to participate, and whether invisible and unsafe frailties lie within.
The tragedy of Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) strikes more often than we would like to think. Something needs to be done and this foundation with your collaborations is going to be the organization that makes an impact and becomes apart of the solution.