Tedy's Team Turns 10: A Message from His Father
Team Member Frank Mastrangelo
The Mastrangelo family: (l to r) AJ, Donna, Cailey and Frank
Silence was Frank Mastrangelo’s first clue that something was wrong. "I was driving my two children home from summer camp in June 2006, and they were in the backseat yelling about something and then it all went completely quiet," he said. He turned around and saw their mouths moving but heard no sound for half a minute, but then his hearing returned.
When he got to the school where his wife Donna worked, he felt numbness and went to the restroom. "I work as an EMT so I knew something was up when I couldn’t grasp my zipper with my right hand," he said. He checked his face in the mirror — nothing drooping. But there was still numbness in his right arm and shoulder. He decided an ER visit was in order. "Then I did exactly what I tell other people not to do — I drove myself to the ER." He was 42.
At the hospital, an MRI revealed a small dead spot in his brain (a sign of an infarction or stroke), and a follow-up ultrasound showed the cause — a patent foramen ovale (PFO), a hole between the upper chambers of his heart. "Somewhere a clot formed, slipped through that hole and, as my doctor described it, took the expressway to my brain instead of getting caught in my lungs." And here’s an ironic twist — Frank’s father had died of an ischemic stroke on the same day, June 26, one year before at age 72.
While in the hospital, Frank read about PFOs in an American Stroke Association brochure, and on the back he found information about Train To End Stroke (TTES), a program in which participants trained for a marathon while raising money for stroke research. He had just started running to lose weight before his stroke, so after his hematologist cleared him, Frank joined TTES and ran his first marathon in honor of his dad at Disneyworld in January 2007.
Soon after he learned about Tedy’s Team training for the Boston Marathon in April. "It looked pretty cool and I really wanted to get connected with that," Frank said.
Frank has now run six marathons and four halfmarathons, most of them as a member of Tedy’s Team and Train to End Stroke, as well as seven Falmouth Road Races in the summer. That is no small achievement for "a big, hairy Italian who had never been an athlete," he said. After he turned 50, he stopped running distance races to spend more time with his family, cutting back to 12-15 miles a week. "There is a lot of training involved with running marathons, and that takes a lot of time," he said. "I felt like I was doing Cailey and AJ a disservice as they got older." Cailey is a high school senior and AJ is a freshman.
Though not running competitively, he is still involved in the Boston Marathon, serving as a medical committee member and on race day overseeing 350 medical volunteers who serve beyond the finish line. "We take care of all the medical needs of all the runners," Frank said, "but I always have my eye out for members of Tedy’s Team and make sure they have water and anything else they need."
When Frank talks about Tedy’s Team, it’s clear that the camaraderie was a big part of why he continued running. "You become really close with your teammates to the point where they’re like family," he said. "They need something, they call me. I need something, I call them. We’ve had several Tedy’s Team reunions. And it’s cool going back and seeing everybody. We’ve shared a lot of special times, memories I’ll certainly never forget."
And even though he’s not running marathons, Frank hasn’t given up running races. This summer he is going to do the Falmouth Road Race with Tedy’s Team.
"It was a little creepy having a stroke exactly one year after my dad died of one," Frank said. "But because of the stroke I found out about the PFO and got it fixed. And I’ve made a lot of healthy changes — eating better, reducing stress, losing weight. I kind of figured it was my dad sitting up there saying, ‘Hey, you better get your big fat butt in gear and start exercising.’"
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