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Terminally-ill man wants to die at home

by Tom Hardin

Craig Sellaro has something to live for.

He wants to be reunited with his wife and children before he dies.

Sellaro, 48, has lived in Middlesex County on and off since he was 7 years old. His family had a summer home at Piankatank Shores in Hartfield and he visited here often as a boy.

He later worked construction full-time in Middlesex for several years.

Now, he is on disability and his life is limited to a bed or wheelchair.

Sellaro’s problems started a few years ago while living in St. Petersburg, Florida, with his wife Cindy and the couple’s two grown children. “I got sick and began losing weight and the doctors didn’t know what was wrong,” he said.

About seven months ago he came to MCV in Richmond for more extensive tests, and it was there he was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis (MG), a neuromuscular disorder. This disease is characterized by fluctuating weakness of voluntary muscle groups, such as the shoulder, hip, eye, facial, chewing, swallowing and breathing muscles. Symptoms include slurred speech, choking, trouble holding head erect, walking, and shortness of breath.

Sellaro’s condition continues to worsen. He can no longer stand on his own and has to be fed through a tube. This week he was admitted to Riverside Walter Reed Hospital in Gloucester to have another “food port” inserted, this time in his jugular vein. “The veins in my arms are pretty much used up,” he said.

“My situation has progressed so fast I don’t know how much longer I have,” said Sellaro. “I just can’t take care of myself anymore. It’s got me.”

Since returning to the Middlesex area, Sellaro has been living with his two sisters. One lives at North in Mathews County and the other at Piankatank Shores. He appreciates their help and hospitality, but he wants to return home to Florida.

“Before I die, I want to get back to my family,” he said.

But getting back to St. Petersburg will be no easy task for Sellaro. He has little money and he can’t make the trip by himself.

Two neighbors and friends, Curtis Baker and Max Farrington of T&M Construction, have offered to help Sellaro—and they have a plan. They want to rent a van to take Sellaro home. They would put Sellaro in the back of the van on a gurney, which would be strapped down tight. The two men would take turns driving.

Once at Sellaro’s home, the two men would build a wheelchair ramp into his house, fix his room to accommodate his special needs, and make other necessary repairs.

Baker said Henley’s Do-It Center has agreed to donate the necessary materials for the ramp, and he is now in the process of trying to raise the $800 needed to make the trip. To date, a couple of neighbors have contributed, but more funds are needed.

Baker has set up a joint bank account in the names of Francis Craig Sellaro and Curtis Baker at BB&T, and contributions to Sellaro’s cause can be made at any branch of the bank.

If Sellaro is healthy enough for the trip, Baker said he and Farrington plan to leave on Friday, May 1, and return early the following week.

If Sellaro’s condition worsens, he will have to go to Florida by airplane, which could be more expensive. Baker is asking that anyone with excess airline miles consider donating them if this becomes the case.

For more information, call Baker at 804-512-6413.

posted 04.22.2009

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