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Military Lets Father Stay Near Hospitalized Daughter

February 11, 1991

BOSTON (AP) _ When the first bombs exploded over Baghdad, 3-year-old Sarah Metallo was struggling for her life in Boston Children’s Hospital, where surgeons had to amputate her legs and hands.

For Sarah’s mother, Jennifer, that night in mid-January was doubly terrifying. She feared her husband, Frank Metallo, would be called up at any moment to serve in the Persian Gulf War.

″He could get called any time and he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it,″ Mrs. Metallo said Sunday in a phone interview from her daughter’s hospital room.

But the military gave Frank Metallo, a Marine stationed at the South Weymouth Naval Base, a reprieve. He was placed on nondeployable status, which means he can stay by his sick daughter’s bedside.

″His unit has been really fantastic,″ Mrs. Metallo said. The commanding officer visited the hospital. Fellow Marines set up a fund to cover Sarah’s medical bills.

The brown-haired girl’s troubles began one night in early January, when she awoke complaining of a sore knee.

Her temperature climbed to 106.8 and strange purple spots appeared on her body. Doctors in the South Shore Hospital emergency room realized she was suffering from a rare bacterial form of meningitis of the blood.

″Her capillaries were starting to explode and she was essentially bleeding to death,″ Mrs. Metallo said. ″By the time that shows up, within hours most kids are dead.″

Sarah’s blood was washed to remove bacteria.

Her heart stopped three times that night and her circulation failed so badly that doctors had no alternative but to remove both legs below her knees and most of the tiny fingers on both hands.

″A lot of people wouldn’t count it as a victory that she has no hands and feet, but we still have Sarah,″ her mother said. ″We do see victories through it.″

The Metallos are religious people who have relied on their faith throughout the ordeal. Fellow parishoners from the Zion Foursquare Full Gospel Church in Rockland have also set up a fund for Sarah.

Mrs. Metallo estimated that the hospital room alone already has cost $200,000. Every other day, when Sarah’s bandages are changed, there is a $2,300 charge for an anesthesiologist. Her wheelchair will cost $2,800.

The military pays only 80 percent of most medical expenses.

Sarah’s mother doubts her only child fully comprehends the limitations that will be placed on her, even after planned reconstructive surgery and two prostheses.

But for now she is just happy to have her family alive and with her.

″I know (the military) can’t give him time off forever, even though Sarah’s problems will go on for her whole life,″ Mrs. Metallo said. ″It’s in the Lord’s hands.


Eds: Donations may be sent to the Sarah Metallo Benefit Fund, Naval Federal Credit Union, South Weymouth Naval Air Station, South Weymouth, Mass. 02190