Locals show concern, support for Amato

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 11, 2000

DANIEL TYLER GOODEN / L’Observateur / August 11, 2000

GRAND POINT – Mention the name Patti Amato, and River Parish citizens light up with the chance to express their concern and tell how they feel. Print thefeelings of these people would fill the newspaper with words like courageous, strong, determined, caring, like a member of my family, a delight, a good spirit, bubbly, bright-eyed, beautiful and on and on.

On April 15 Amato was rushed to St. James Parish Hospital and then air-lifted to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. Amatohad been diagnosed with Meningococcal Meningitis, a bacteria that initially looks like the flu but can kill if not treated quickly.

Danny Louque, Amato’s uncle and godfather, remembering the event perfectly.

“It was April 15, a Saturday, at 9:30 a.m. We got the call that she was beingtaken to the hospital,” said Louque. He instructed his secretary to call hisbeeper when anyone called. On Monday, while traveling down LouisianaInterstate 10, his beeper went off and he knew what it was.

“They said she had only a couple hours to live. We rushed to Baton Rouge.There were 40 or 50 people there, and the only thing to rely on was prayer,” said Louque. The doctors decided to put Amato on a dialysis machine, andshe began to slowly improve. For the next few months friends and familylived day by day as Amato slowly recovered, then was set back. “It was aroller coaster ride,” said Marie Porrier, Amato’s mother.

Amato’s lungs filled with fluid, her gall bladder had to be removed and her legs, from the knee down, one arm below the elbow and the first knuckles on the other hand all had to be amputated, said Louque.

“It was one thing after another. People kept coming to me and saying weshould do something,” he added.

A committee was formed to start a fund-raiser for Amato. For two weeksSue and Dennille Louque, Renee’ Waguespack and Mary Ellen Ropier worked to gather sponsors and help set up golf tournament Danny Louque was coordinating.

By the day of the tournament, July 17, 32 corporate and 240 private sponsors, at $500 and $100 a piece, and 360 golfers at $100 each had donated money for Amato’s medical bills.

“I never set a goal. I though maybe we’d get $40 or 50,000, but I never toldthat to anyone. We never dreamed that we’d get $82,000,” said Louque.There’s something special about the River Parishes people. “Sometimeswe’re criticized, but when there is a great need we always come up to do what we have to do,” he added.

Jared Amato, Patti’s husband, was amazed at all the people who turned out on the scorching summer day. “People you wouldn’t think would care orweren’t really close to the family were there,” said Amato. People stop himon the street or anywhere he is asking how Patti and the family are doing.

“It’s just easier knowing that many people are pulling for you,” said Amato.

The thought of all those people there for her overwhelms Patti.

“I was told it was the biggest golf tournament around. There were 90 teams.People knew it would be slow but everybody came out anyway,” she said, close to tears.

To lose another child would have been devastating to the Porriers, said Louque. Lloyd and Marie lost their son Joey in the 1988 Shell plant explosion.Both Jared Amato and Louque feel Patti’s fighting spirit is so strong because she didn’t want her family to go through another unexpected loss.

“I have three kids to live for,” Rusty, Heidi and Madison, added Amato. Shesaid she’s already lost three weeks of her life, and she doesn’t and to lose any more. “I woke up one morning and told Rusty that he’d better get theEaster candy out. He told me that Easter was two weeks ago,” said Amato.In the last three weeks Amato has been recovering steadily. “It’s the firsttime in four months that it’s been all good stuff, no setbacks,” said her mother.

It’s a miracle the ways Amato’s recovering, and now she’s excited to start her physical therapy.

Her condition has improved so much that her doctors are giving her a pass so she can visit her friends Sunday at the Pattifest in Paulina.

The Pattifest is the second large fund-raiser for Amato’s medical bills. Themoney made this weekend will go toward prosthetics so Amato can walk and use her hands again, said Tommy Bourgeois, chairman of the festival.

People have already devoted time, money and goods to the gathering. Morefood than anyone could imagine will be served over the weekend. Already,people have pledged hundreds of dollars to participate in the sports events scheduled, and three bands have donated their time and are playing for free.

“People come in and say they’re helping with the Pattifest. I’m just flooredby how this has brought everybody together,” said Porrier.

Her employers, John, Loretta and the late Henry Beech, are great examples of lives Patti has touched. Working for RIVCO since she was 18, Amato hasbecome one of their family. “She’s a super, super person who has alwaysbeen there for us. She’s always seen the bright side of everything. It’s thatspirit that saw us through so many difficult times of our own,” said Loretta.

Patti gave the eulogy at Henry’s funeral, she added.

It’s people like the Beeches that Patti has so greatly affected with her spirit.

Across the River Parishes, other people share the same sentiments and the love they have for someone so special to them. They do not seem to gatherjust to help a friend in need, but to return a favor of the kindness Patti has shown to all of them.

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