By Mark Hallum
St. Mary’s Hospital for Children dedicated a room in its facility to the memory of a patient who passed away just over three months after being born with a rare chromosomal condition. while the infant’s the parents made a generous donation to the Bayside institution.
Anthony and Leah Ziniti donated a $27,000 to St. Mary’s from the Caterina Grace Foundation, which they established following the death of their daughter in February 2017. The couple have pledged an additional $11,000 over the next few years, hoping that the hospital can continue improving the work they do for children suffering from life-threatening conditions.
“St. Mary’s was the place she made good progress, all of her therapists cheered her on and, honestly, for my wife and I, all of our best memories with her were at St. Mary’s,” Anthony Ziniti said.
Additional funds raised by the Garden City family will go to Cohen’s Childrens Medical Center to fund genomic research. Their daughter suffered from nemaline myopathy, a disorder affecting the muscles.
Leah Ziniti explained how their daughter had been born with low muscle mass and had problems breathing without the help of medical equipment, as well as trouble swallowing. Once Caterina Grace’s condition had stabilized in the neo-natal ICU at Cohen’s, she was transferred to St. Mary’s where a variety of therapeutic methods were implemented and the infant began to show signs of improvement.
The Ziniti’s situation took a turn for the worse when their daughter contracted an infection, which ultimately led to her death.
“The biggest thing we want to do in our daughter’s memory is to do whatever good we can in her honor for kids who are unfortunately ill,” Leah Ziniti said. “Raising money and finding the hospitals and hopefully funding treatments for nemaline myopathy in the future has definitely given us some solace. It’s just horribly traumatic and you don’t know why this is happening to you. We’re just trying to look less at the ‘why’ and focus more on the ‘what can we do for others.’”
The Caterina Grace Room at St. Mary’s was dedicated Aug. 10 and the Ziniti’s are planning a walk to raise additional funding for their foundation on Nov. 15, their late daughter’s birthday.
“We are deeply humbled by this generous gift from the Caterina Grace Foundation,” St. Mary’s CEO Edwin Simpser said. “Anthony and Leah Ziniti displayed such strength during their daughter’s illness and we are so grateful they have decided to honor Caterina Grace through a gift to St. Mary’s. We hope the Caterina Grace Room will be a place of comfort and healing for many families in the coming years.”
Anthony Ziniti said he hoped the money from their crowdfunding effort would be used to finance the facility’s project to add a new unit with 29 beds, which he said would cost about $2.5 million.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall