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Recovering Councilman Recounts Life-Threatening Experience

On New Year’s Day, Councilman Frank Ferry was released from Providence Holy Cross Medical Center after a month’s stay. Due to complications following pancreatic surgery on November 30, doctors told Ferry’s family that he had a strong chance of dying. The fourth-term Council member, who is also the principal of Bishop Alemany High School, is now resting at home, with all signs pointing to a complete recovery.

Christopher Glotfelty: What’s a regular day like for you now?  

Frank Ferry: I basically have doctor appointments Monday through Thursday. There are six to eight doctors I have to see and once they sign off on me I don’t have to see them again. Really, I’m still at a point where I can go pretty well for two to three hours and then I get tired and I want to take a nap. I don’t have my strength back. I’ve lost 50 pounds and so my muscle mass is gone and I’m just tired, but my energy level is getting a lot better every day. I’m walking around the block every day. I’ve had great news: I had the infectious disease guy yesterday take the IV out of my arm and took me off antibiotics; the surgeon said I could start doing things again normal; my general internist probably took me off half the medication and gave me a note to start going back to City Council meetings and work part time.  

CG: So you do get a note?  

FF: I do. I got a note. I said, “You know, I’ve been out eight weeks.” As a principal of a school, after three days I make someone get a note, so I better bring back a note myself and let my boss know that they said, “Take it easy.” I got a note for my mom to let her know that I could drive because they don’t want me driving. Even though I’m 45 years old, to my mom I’m still 12. Whenever I get up from lying down or sitting I still get dizzy for about three seconds and the doctor said that would go away. I’m starting to eat more normal.  

CG: Do you have a normal appetite again?  

FF: Honestly, I eat three meals a day. I have to eat protein. I don’t want to eat that much. That will build back up, though. No one can say I was ever a thin, skinned-bone dude. Even though I’ve lost 50 pounds I’m sure I’ll get back to where I’ve always been.  

CG: What’s your pain like?  

FF: You know what? I’m very fortunate. I would say most my pain now is muscle pain. It’s like it’s the first day you’ve worked out having never worked out before and so you’re always just sort of sore. I have no internal pain. I don’t have any pain from the stitches; I don’t have any pain really from the surgery per se.  

CG: I had major shoulder surgery last year and leading up to that I had pain every single day and one day my throat – the muscles around my larynx – just cramped up and tightened up and my friends had to take me to the emergency room. The doctors gave me pain medication and this signaled to me that I needed to get the surgery I had been putting off. When I finally had it, I woke up from this six-hour surgery and wondered when they were going to put me on some sort of drip. They said, “No. We think you can leave tomorrow.” And they had initially told me I was going to be there five days. They had just opened me up for six hours and they just said, “Here. Take some Advil.”  

FF: Isn’t that amazing? I can get into a position where I’m comfortable and feel no pain, but I just haven’t had the need for (medication).  

CG: So, in the hospital, was it you that just said, “Hey, I think I can get out of here”?  

FF: No, not at all. I got out of ICU – I think I was in a coma for 12 days. You get out of the ICU – you’re weak and I have eight doctors coming in. Those first two weeks out of the ICU the doctors are pretty much letting you know that you’re still on the fence where you could go back into ICU. I’m having two or three fevers a day. There were three significant pockets of poison that they were watching and it was keeping me at a point where the doctors said, “Hey, you’re sort of on this teeter-totter where it could go the other way.” They let me go New Year’s Day, but it was probably three to four days before New Year’s Day where they said, “Hey, you’re starting to eat well. You’re starting to get to the point where you can go home and be on antibiotics, and that’s what happened. It’s really in the last seven days where all the doctors are saying, “Man, you’ve turned a corner. You have no fevers; your CAT scan looks great.” My energy level has gone way up. My mental positiveness has gone way up. It’s been great, the last week.  

CG: At what point in the hospital did you tell yourself, “You know, I’m going to be able to get out of here”?  

FF: It’s interesting. You’re in a coma and you don’t know anything that’s going on during those days. I had a doctor yesterday – he’s chuckling, sort of laughing to himself. I go, “What’s going on?” He goes, “I can’t believe looking at this CAT scan that you’re sitting here where you’re at.” I joked, “Isn’t that your job?” He laughed and said, “You don’t get how bad you were. We didn’t think you were going to live.”  

My mom and dad have tremendous faith, and my mom just truly believed that I was going to be OK. She just believes in prayer and so does my dad. So here I have these eight doctors that are all looking me in the eye and saying, “We’re men of science. We don’t know what happened and we don’t know medically how you survived.” And I got my mom over here saying, “I knew you were going to be OK and I prayed and I knew you going to live.” So I’m on my mom’s side. I got these other guys telling me I’m going to die and I got my mom telling me that she prayed and she knew I was going to be OK. When I got out of ICU, I’m like, you know what, I’ll choose my mom’s side – she’s a little more positive about where I’m going. My family was awesome. They were great through the whole thing.  

CG: I go to Blessed Kateri and it was nice to hear the congregation pray for you.  

FF: I saw Father Slatterly (the monsignor of Blessed Kateri Tekawitha Parish on Copper Hill) today. He’s a great guy. I saw him at the Starbucks near my doctor’s office and he said, “Yeah, we all prayed for you at church.” It worked.  

CG: He’s great. A few weeks ago I was arriving at church and he was leaving. Before he gets into his car he looks up at everybody and shouts, “Goodbye, Catholics.” And he gets into his car and leaves.  

FF: He’s just a great guy.  

CG: So, at this point is there anything that you’re just completely ready to accomplish?  

FF: You know what? It’s one of those things where I definitely want to make sure I spend a lot of time with my family and my sons. I plan on doing a vacation this summer which I haven’t done before. I just want to take everyone’s advice to come back slow and not push it. I think once you realize you’re here for a purpose, I just want to clarify what my priorities are. Those positive things I enjoy doing for the community and for kids that I work with and just keep doing those things. Anything where you can improve in your life, make sure I diligently look at it and make those improvements. It’s hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime experience I don’t have to do again. I sure went in healthy and energetic and didn’t think I’d end up where I ended up. So, I do get a second chance now to sort of look at life and reevaluate, so it’s nice.