Dave Parise — part of a longtime, well-known Westport family — was born with a genetic heart defect.
Obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy was not noticeable when he was young. He wrestled, ran, and played football and baseball while growing up.
After graduating from Staples High School in 1976 he helped coach there, and joined the custodial staff. But in his early 40s he went on medication. A defibrillator was implanted. He developed blood pressure problems and a heart murmur. He took 9 medications, twice a day.
This past April, Dave was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Chemo and radiation exacerbated his heart condition.
In early October, while walking his dog at Southport Beach, David passed out. He was taken to Bridgeport Hospital.
On October 18 he underwent open-heart surgery. An adverse reaction to his blood thinner kept him in the hospital for 12 days.
Back home, he was in excruciating pain. He had pericarditis — an inflammation near the heart — and then complications from bleeding. He endured a second open-heart surgery, this time in New York.
It’s been a rough year for Dave and his wife Anne.
But the day before Thanksgiving, he got a call from Paul Coppola, assistant principal at Trumbull’s Madison Middle School. David’s been a custodian in that town for the past 5 years.
Students and staff have been uplifted by his friendliness, generosity and vibrant personality. He loves kids, and knows virtually every Madison student well.
The youngsters wanted to know where “Dr. Clean” had been. (His other nicknames: Mr. All-American Red White and Blue, and Dr. Patriot.)
One morning, Coppola called. They were having a pep rally for him, he told Dave. They were singing songs and cheering — all via FaceTime.
Dave beamed. His spirits soared.
He can’t wait to get back to his school, his staff and his kids, and make his building shine again.
(Hat tip: Jack Backiel)