Seaford High School alumnus Frank Spano first noticed the purple, lumpy rash all over his infant son’s body shortly after “Baby” Frankie Jr. was born last Nov. 26.
Frank’s wife’s, Dina, had had her spleen removed when doctors discovered a non-cancerous tumor attached to it in 2016, and her immune system was compromised. When she was seven months pregnant with Frankie Jr., Dina was bitten by a tick, and needed her spleen to filter her blood. Without the organ, she became deathly ill and required malaria treatments.
Today, as a result, 9-month-old Frankie is fighting for his life: He has an aggressive form of leukemia. And the tight-knit Seaford community is once again coming together to help a neighbor. Frank and his family moved to Huntington four years ago, but his roots are in Seaford.
His sister, Michelle Smith, who lives in Seaford, organized a GoFundMe page that has already raised almost $30,000. And the Wantagh-based John Theissen Children’s Foundation will join “Frankie’s Fight” at a fundraiser Smith is planning for next month.
Frank called the community’s response “absolutely amazing and overwhelming,” and said he was “extremely grateful and appreciative” for the way people have rallied to his son’s cause.
For his treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, Frankie must stay in the hospital for weeks on end — a total of six to eight months for his type of cancer, his father said. He will undergo five rounds of chemotherapy, repeating five weeks in the hospital and one week at home. Either or both of his parents are always there with him. Fundraising will help ease the financial burden of caring for their son.
Frank works for PSEG Long Island, and said the company has been understanding, allowing him to take all the time he needs away from work, even though his paid leave time is almost used up.
Frank takes care of Frankie during the day, while Dina is up all night at the hospital with him. They give him medicine and change his diapers and clothes, because the chemo makes him throw up several times a day. Both parents were staying with him in the evenings until school began. Frank now switches off every other evening with his wife so one parent can be home to care for Dina’s son from a previous marriage, 8-year-old Hunter Pitney. Frank’s other two children, from a previous marriage — 9-year-old Alexander and 4-year-old Lilah Spano — spend most of their time with their mother, who shares custody of them.
When Frankie was born, he had what is referred to as blueberry muffin rash — large purple lumps on his body, Frank said. For the first four months of his life, he was given many tests, at Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, all of which came back negative. At 5 months, the rash came back, appearing in two spots on Frankie’s stomach. This time a blood test showed that he had leukemia and could not leave the hospital.
“I wish I could trade places with him,” his father said. “It’s a very involved process for a baby, because they can’t tell us when they’re in pain.”
Frankie has been responding well to chemotherapy treatments so far, Frank said.
The family, he added, is opening up a trust fund in Frankie’s name. Any money raised will help pay the bills.
Smith said she can’t visit the hospital often, because she is pregnant with her fourth child, so she is trying to help raise money. She created a Facebook page detailing her upcoming fundraiser, on Oct. 12, at 7 p.m., at Memorare Caterers on Jackson Avenue in Seaford. John Theissen will help sponsor the night by holding a live auction, and Smith is selling T-shirts and collecting money for Frankie through a GoFundMe link on the Facebook page.
Local businesses that have made other donations include Seaford Bagels, Uniquely Yours, Seaford Cinemas and the law offices of William Goldrick in Wantagh.
Smith said that what the Spanos are going through with Frankie is difficult — and horrible. “I look at my kids every night,” she said, “and thank God they’re healthy.”