They bonded as kids, a friendship that has grown into a lifeline – The Boston Globe
SCITUATE — They grew up together, little boys in the same close neighborhood who did the things that little boys love to do.
Street hockey and whiffle ball. Tennis and baseball.
They played basketball games in the cul de sac that their families shared. On lazy summer nights, they watched scary movies on television.
“We just have a very tight-knit neighborhood,’’ Jamie Murray told me. “I realized pretty early on that Cole’s a great kid. And a great friend to have.’’
“Yeah,’’ Cole Pasqualucci agreed. “Jamie is five years older than me so I always looked up to him. And I wanted to hang out with the older guys. Jamie never looked at me as the young kid. I was always one of them.’’
In other words: neighbors, pals, best buddies.
Their lives would, of course, eventually diverge.
Murray was an accomplished hockey goalie, a standout player for Babson College, before signing a professional contract with the San Jose Sharks organization in 2016.
“I had to have hip surgery,’’ Murray explained about his dreams of life in the National Hockey League. “The writing was on the wall at that point. So, I moved on.’’
But he never forgot his friend from the old neighborhood.
And as Pasqualucci traveled a vastly different road — a harrowing and ongoing medical journey that would test the mettle of almost anyone — the two friends grew, if possible, even closer.
The bond they forged on Tack Factory Pond Drive became a lifeline of sorts.
Pasqualucci, 24, vividly recalls how it all started when he was just 5.
“I just remember waking up one day and my eyes were all swollen and my parents thought it was allergies,’’ he said. “So they took me to the pediatrician and I was treated for allergies. And after like a week, that wasn’t working. I was still retaining fluid. So they brought me to Children’s Hospital.’’
No. It wasn’t allergies.
Instead, it was a medical mouthful: focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, which led to kidney failure. It’s a disease in which scar tissue develops on the parts of the kidneys that filter waste from the blood.
“He needed kidney support,’’ his physician, Dr. Noelle Saillant, a critical care specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, told me.
“He needed surgery. Complex medical care. The sickest of the sick patients. I’ve been here five to six years and he’s one of the sickest situations that we’ve had to treat. Period. It’s really bad.’’
What followed was a rare medical collaboration among three hospitals.
“We reached out to both Children’s Hospital — because they had known him previously — and importantly to Mount Sinai Hospital. And we used the experiences of those three hospitals to come up with a plan for Cole,’’ Saillant said.
And what a plan it was: surgery to remove most of his intestine, work to clean up an infection, and then new organs to replace those that have been damaged.
“He was so nutritionally depleted that we didn’t think he could tolerate a transplant,’’ Saillant said. “We’re going to try to give him an intestine and a colon and we’re going to try to do a kidney as well. He is getting there. We’re hoping for like December.’’
That cheering you hear is coming from the large group of family and friends like those who gathered at Central Field the other day for an annual whiffle ball tournament that Murray organizes to raise funds to fight the disease that has afflicted Cole Pasqualucci.
When it began, 12 years ago, there were 23 teams. This year, there were 64, about as many as the fields could accommodate in the shadow of the town’s landmark Lawson Tower.
On a sun-splashed weekend afternoon, there were trash barrels filled with bottles of Gatorade and water. There were skinny yellow plastic bats and floating whiffle balls that can be maddeningly tough to control — and to hit.
And there were lots of hugs and high-fives.
When the tallying was finished, some $27,000 had been raised to fight the disease.
“I’m humbled,’’ Kim Pasqualucci, Cole’s mom, said. “I’m extremely blessed by the support of my town. The people are incredible. You don’t ask for anything. They just give. Cole is like the mayor of Scituate. And everyone loves him.’’
For now, she said, the plan is to get Cole to gain weight to prepare him for a double transplant: kidney and bowel.
“It could be four months from now,’’ she said. “It could be five months from now. It’s when a deceased donor becomes available and it’s a perfect match.’’
Cole’s mother marveled at her son, who owns his own landscaping business, which he started when he was just 11, borrowing a neighbor’s lawnmower to cut grass. Now, he’s got two trucks on the road. He’s established a business. He’s looking ahead.
“He’s an incredible, incredible guy,’’ Kim Pasqualucci said. “He’s like the cat with nine lives. He’s amazing. He’s truly amazing.’’
Bob Pasqualucci, Cole’s dad, agreed.
“It’s heartwarming to see the love that people have for Cole,’’ he said. “We spent so much time in the hospital that the best part of my day is when Cole is feeling well and out of the hospital. If he’s not having a good day, I’m not having a good day.’’
So the day on the ballfield was as welcome as the summer wind.
“There is nothing that this family won’t do for their son,’’ Saillant told me. “I have asked Cole to go through horrible medical procedures and he trusts us.
“He’s well read. He wants to live. And he wants to have a productive life. Even when he was sick, he was running his own business. His mom and dad are at his bedside all the time. Basically, they’re doing hospital-level care at home right now.
“They’ve been through the ups and downs. Luckily, things are going really well. But it’s a long and skinny road across a lot of perils that can change at any moment.’’
That’s something that Jamie Murray learned years ago, when college and a career were in the distant future, and the neighborhood kids just wanted to play ball and have fun on those warm summer nights when the twilight seemed reluctant to surrender to the darkness.
“Cole means the world to me,’’ Murray said. “He’s like a brother to me. And as we’ve gotten older, he’s become one of my best friends.
“Cole knows how I feel about him. He’s someone I view as a younger brother. He’s genuinely family to me. One of my best friends. He is a huge part of my life. And I’m happy to do this not only for the people who support Cole, but I know Cole enjoys it.’’
And then Jamie Murray looked across the sun-dappled field where smiling players wore T-shirts and shorts and patrolled the outfield in bare feet and black sneakers.
There were cheeseburgers and chocolate-chip cookies to eat.
There were friendships to renew.
And there was this unassailable truth:
“Everybody loves Cole,’’ a smiling Murray said, squinting into the warm summer sun.
Thomas Farragher is a Globe columnist. He can reached at [email protected].
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