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Eat It And Like It: Franco Marra rallies from death’s door

  • Franco and Lisa Marra.
 

Eat It And Like It: Franco Marra rallies from death’s door

26 Jul 2017

About a year ago, almost to the day, we shared some words in this space about Franco and Lisa Marra. They are the husband and wife team who own Frali Gourmet Pasta Shop on Liberty Street at Tattnall, downtown Savannah.

Since that story, the couple have had a rocky road.

At the time, they were beginning dinner service at their shop. No pomp or circumstance, not many frills. Not even wine unless you brought it in yourself. There was just good food, some good conversation and if you were lucky, a few of Franco’s jokes. Clever guy he is.

One April day like any other, Franco came to work and began speaking incoherently. “Lisa says she got scared because I wasn’t making any sense,” he says. That episode earned him a trip to the emergency room. Initially, they thought it was a stroke. Not long after, a massive blood infection was detected. At one point it affected 96 percent of his brain. Add to that, a 103 degree fever.

“They had to induce a coma.” Lisa says. “The fever didn’t break for almost two weeks.”

Franco’s doctors explained the situation to his family. They were told to prepare for the worst. If Franco did bounce back, he would never be the same again. Too much of his brain had been affected. He wasn’t expected to remember anyone or anything. Motor skills and his ability going forward were anyone’s guess. All of that, if he survived.

“I had not been feeling well for a while.” Franco admits now. “I had some shakes, but I figured I was just tired. Working too much.”

He looks good now. He’s moving a little bit slowly, but still very quick-witted. He admits to being confused sometimes when he tries to multitask. If that is as bad as it will be going forward, he will take it. So will Lisa. After all, it wasn’t but two short months ago that Franco was in the hospital in a coma. It’s not hyperbole. He was on death’s doorstep. No one expected him to make it.

During his hospitlization, Lisa refused to give up hope. She never did for a second. A few tablespoons of positive energy and a couple of cups of faith, she believed, were the recipe to see them all through the nightmare.

Meanwhile, outside of the hospital, there was a business to run. Frali Gourmet Pastas provides fresh pasta to any number of downtown restaurants, as well as Kroger stores and Lucky’s Market. “The Spring is also our busiest time for catering,” she says. “There was no way we could shut down, even for a day.”

To no one’s surprise, really, word got out and the Savannah community rallied. Social media did its thing and they even got some mainstream media attention. “People were showing up here asking how they could help us,” Lisa says. “People I don’t even know.

“I had a girl show up here asking if she could do my hair for me. I don’t even know her name or how to thank her. The cute couple from Le Cafe Gourmet came and offered to make bread for us. Everyone has been just amazing. I’m still surprised.”

Franco’s fever eventually broke. The subsequent attempt to slowly bring him out of his coma did not. Not for a while at any rate. For two months, Lisa and their sons Matteo and Alessandro made it work.

“We’d work all day and I’d sleep in the hospital,” Lisa says. “I had people offering to sleep in the hospital for me so I could go home and sleep in a bed at least one night.” She politely declined.

“We had two or three different people from The Landings who come to eat here come to visit. More than once.” Franco says. People at the Tybee Farmers Market were walking up to my 82-year-old father and handing him extra money. Telling him it was for his son.”

Following weeks of delicate treatment and calculated decisions by his doctors, Franco eventually opened his eyes. It wasn’t long after that, he was talking. What had begun as a death watch turned incredibly optimistic. His doctors to this day cannot fully explain it.

“His doctor a few weeks ago sat in front of him and stared in his face,” Lisa says. “Franco asked if he was going to kiss him and he said ‘No, I just want to get a really good look at you. You are a miracle.’”

She tells me there isn’t a single one of his doctors that doesn’t look at Franco now in amazement that he is still with us.

“I was reading about this bacteria,” Franco says. “In 22 cases, 20 died. Only two made it. So I do consider myself lucky.”

Franco is even back to work. “I did some cooking last night,” he tells me. “Not too much. Just for eight people.”

He’s still being tested, obviously, for anything that may be off-center regarding his health, but considering where he’s been, he says he’s good. He looks good. Sounds good. And if you know Franco, he sums it up in a way only he can.

“I guess there were too many Italians in hell already. No space for fighters.”

QUICK BITES

• Savannah Restaurant Week is here. Three courses, $30 at any of a couple of dozen participating restaurants. Find a full list at dining.savannahnow.com.

• Kurtis Schumm of Tybee Social and Fish Camp has opened Schumm’s Chicken and Shrimp Hut, 1605 Inlet Ave., on Tybee. Haven’t been there yet, but it looks fantastic.

• Don’t forget the Big Bon Pizza pop up in Pooler! Front Porch Coffee Shop at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Music, great food and a family fun time.

• We have begun production of a new season of “Eat It and Like It with Jesse Blanco.” Premiere in September. In the short term, follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. @eatitandlikeit

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