Frank Rummo came from a hockey-loving, Italian family in Massachusetts. So of course, he was a Boston Bruins fan. His allegiance changed when his son signed on as a team doctor for the Nashville Predators.
Rummo is one of the lives lost to the pandemic in Middle Tennessee, which WPLN News has been memorializing.
In their last home game before the season was suspended, the Preds beat the Dallas Stars.
“Yeah, last home game, I’m sure he was at [it], because I was there,” says Dr. Paul Rummo, Frank’s son.
Paul says his parents would escape Massachusetts to spend much of the winter in Florida. On the way home, they’d spend March at his house and cheer on their adopted home team.
Some of Paul’s fondest memories of his father revolve around hockey. When he was playing on his high school team, his dad would make sure he was home from driving a UPS truck to sit in the stands. Or more recently, in 2017, they flew across the country to support Paul as he helped keep the banged-up Preds in the playoffs.
“I’m definitely going to miss him coming to the games with me,” he says, with a shaky voice.
Paul actually came down with COVID-19 first. Then his mother, Elaine. They isolated in separate parts of the house, and after about a week, they were OK.
When Frank Rummo fell ill, though, he started having trouble breathing. And on his 81st birthday, April 7, he was admitted to the intensive care unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where Paul is an assistant professor of orthopedics.
Physicians always try to be clear-eyed about the prospects, Paul says. But being a son is different.
“Yes, you know maybe it’s only a 10% chance of survival,” he says. “But hey, you know he’s going to be that that in that 10%.”
He lived several more weeks but was barely responsive.
Because of the visitation policies, the family didn’t see him almost at all until the final hours. A nurse sat by his side with an iPad as the family gathered on a Zoom call.
Paul and his mom were just outside the hospital room in masks and gowns. His sisters talked to their dad from Massachusetts. Two hours into the call, a Catholic priest joined to give Frank his last rites.
“I kept his family on Zoom as long as they needed, until they felt they had adequately been able to express everything they needed to express to him,” nurse Maddie Hayes tells VUMC Voice.
The Rummo family sent Frank’s ashes back home to Milford, Mass., where they’re waiting until a funeral service can be held. And that’s given them time to reflect.
“I’m sure everyone does this, going back and thinking what could we have done differently,” Paul says. “So that’s tough.”
Rummo says the hardest part may be if the NHL season starts back up. He says hockey will never be the same without his dad.