When Pete Dazzio celebrates Father’s Day tomorrow, it will seem more like Thanksgiving Day.
A Baton Rouge attorney, the 74-year-old Dazzio is the patriarch of a 29-member family who recently traveled halfway around the world for prayer and reflection on a long journey of faith and recovery from a serious brain injury that nearly took his life in 2014.
Dazzio family members and six friends traveled to Medjugorje, Herzegovina. The name is of Slavic origin and means “between two mounts.” But what really happens in Medjugorje is quite spiritual, the Dazzios said following their trip.
It is a place where, for the past 28 years, the family has traveled many times for solace and prayer. Known as the location where Our Lady of Medjugorje appeared to six native children in 1981,the site has been designated by bishops as “a holy place, as a shrine.”
In September, Dazzio was injured in an automobile accident, which left him with a subdural hematoma — a blood clot in the brain.
As a medical malpractice attorney who defends doctors and hospitals, Dazzio knew the seriousness of his diagnosis, said his wife, Carol Dazzio.
“I knew what a subdural hematoma was,” added Pete Dazzio. “I never thought I would go to Medjugorje and Rome. I never thought I would make it out alive.”
Following episodes of slurred speech and blurry vision, Carol Dazzio rushed her husband to the emergency room at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, where they were met by family friend and emergency room physician Dr. Stephen Hosea, who Pete Dazzio now calls his “guardian angel.”
Hosea immediately moved Dazzio to the neurological ICU unit at the hospital, where the Neuromedical Center’s Dr. Gregory Fautheree performed surgery to remove the blood clot. While all appeared to go well, Dazzio soon began experiencing seizures, which lasted two days. To stop the seizures and the swelling in his brain, he was placed in a medically induced coma for three days. He stayed nine days in the ICU.
Meanwhile, all five of the Dazzios’ grown children, including two from out of state, were there the whole time.
“One of us was always there with him. We never left his side. That’s the advantage of a big family,” said Leigh Dazzio Holder, 43, the Dazzios’ daughter and mother of six.
As family and friends rallied and prayed in the waiting room, sharing food with other waiting families, Catholic priests were in and out on a regular basis.
Once he awakened and the seizures ceased, Pete Dazzio was unable to walk. He was subsequently moved to the Neuromedical Center’s rehabilitation center.
“I have great respect for those physical therapists for helping me to learn to walk again,” he said.
For 2½ weeks, he stayed at the rehab center, where priests came to say Mass.
“The prayers are what saved me,” Dazzio said he believes. “When they took me off the ventilator, I said, ‘It’s good to be alive.’ ”
Doctors released him Dec. 11.
Pete and Carol Dazzio celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in January and had planned months before the trip to Medjugorje, where they were to renew their wedding vows, surrounded by family.
“The Blessed Mother wanted us to go,” Carol Dazzio said. “She made it all possible. I just knew we were going to be able to go.”
Pete Dazzio made the trip, with wheelchairs and a walker, through airports from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany, and then a three-hour bus trip along the Adriatic Coastline to Medjugorje. The 29-member group was accommodated by a host family.
The highlight of the trip, Carol Dazzio said, was the renewal of their vows June 6 at Father Slavko’s Mother’s Village during a Mass celebrated by the Rev. Al Davidson, pastor at St. Joseph the Worker in Pierre Part, who accompanied the group. Following Mass, the host family held a reception complete with a cake and music.
After the wedding, each family member shared what the family’s trip had meant to them.
“Carol reminded me again and again, ‘in sickness and in health,’ ” Pete Dazzio said.
During their five-day stay in Medjugorje, Carol Dazzio said one of the visionaries, Vicka Ivankovic Mijatovic, prayed over her and her husband. The group attended a talk by the visionaries, who spoke with a crowd for about 40 minutes through a translator.
Also in Medjugorje, the group (including a 4-year-old) climbed Apparition Hill, where the Blessed Mother is said to have originally appeared. Pete and Carol Dazzio stayed at the base of the hill with 2-year-old grandson Charlie Holder.
The group then flew to Rome, where they spent four days visiting the basilicas, had a papal audience in Vatican Square and visited the museums, the Sistine Chapel and the Coliseum.
Part of the family was delayed when granddaughters Elizabeth, 17, and 13-year-old Caroline Dazzio, of Zachary, were in a serious car accident about two weeks before the trip.
Elizabeth Dazzio had to have surgery on her arm and knees, and, because of possible concussions, the sisters were unable to fly. However, with their dad, Warren Dazzio, they met up with the family in Rome, where Elizabeth sat in a wheelchair with her grandfather in Vatican Square.
The family is back and all is well. Pete Dazzio still goes to rehab four days a week and takes anti-seizure medications.
“Nobody lost luggage. There were no airline issues,” Carol Dazzio said. “We had a fabulous trip!”