Cup of Coffee: Get Well Frank

- -

Ralph Theroux looked distressed. Always upbeat, the longtime agent/official was anxious as he paced around the apron at the Morning Line Kitchen last Saturday morning.

Theroux always has a story to tell, some are about the old days with The Chief, others are about a set he played the night before with the Off Track Band, others simply meander.

Saturday morning, Theroux didn’t have a story.

“Frank Carcaterra is in the hospital, he’s had something called an aortic dissection…it’s not a heart attack or stroke, but his girlfriend Anne couldn’t wake him up, they don’t know how long he was out…”

For a moment, I didn’t recognize the name. Frank Carcaterra? An old trainer…agent…then Theroux called him Frank.

Then it hit me. 

Every year, the first drink was on Frank. Then, it was Saratoga. After a long drive, a walk through the rental, maybe a quick trip to the track, we walked into the Parting Glass and received an official Welcome to Saratoga. Over the years, he bounced around to different bars but he always greeted you with a smile.

I hadn’t seen him yet this year, I don’t go out like I used to, but thought I’d see him at Sperry’s earlier in the meet or at the track for the last race on a Friday.

Frank – bartender, drummer and friend of racing – instead went to the emergency room at Saratoga Hospital, then was air-lifted to Albany Medical Center where he underwent nearly 10 hours of surgery, sometime before or during surgery, he suffered a stroke which affected his speech, memory and mobility.

In a world of technology, Theroux began forwarding texts from Frank’s girlfriend Anne Hodge. They came in like darts, mentioned his daughter Maggie, set lists at the Glass, thoughts and prayers. Humorous and heartfelt, they put your mind back on what is important – your health is your wealth.

Saratoga went on, and text messages followed.

Monday. Edgar Prado won his first race at the meet, upsetting the Tenski with Miss Frost. The Special regrouped after 12 papers in a row. New York-bred yearlings hit the road. Frank recognized his daughter.

You should’ve seen him smile when he saw Maggie. No MRI yet as he’s still got hardware attached. He’ll be in ICU for a few more days at least. Would you let people know that he can’t accept visitors yet? I know everyone wants to show support. Lots of time for that. When he leaves here he’ll be going to a hospital stroke rehab facility (there are 3). Have you gotten a fill-in drummer for Tuesday nights? Dedicate a song to him. You know his favorites.

Tuesday. Dark day. We slept in, went back to work on Issue 21. Theroux and the OTB Band dedicated their show to Frank.

Now you can tell everyone that it was a good day! Mobility in the right hand/arm, a bit in the foot, more alert, and able to speak a bit. On Lasix, so he’ll never race overseas, but off oxygen. Yippee!

Wednesday. Week five at Saratoga began. It rained. All races were off the turf. Spring To The Sky won the Troy. Frank ate solid food.

Wonderful day. Almost all attachments off, eating a bit of real food (well, hospital food), using his right hand somewhat, and speaking. When I saw him this morning I said “Wow, what a difference a day makes.” He started singing the song. Knew it was a Billie Holliday number. Still confused about where he is, and why he’s here but we’re overjoyed. He wants to break out (“are you taking me home?”) but isn’t walking yet, though that might be his incentive. Don’t know what you all did last night but the love came through. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Thursday. Jack Fisher and Paddy Young won the jump race. Mitch Friedman went 1-2 in the Saratoga Dew and Frank walked to the bathroom.

Frank showed some mobility improvement today. He actually got himself out of bed to use the bathroom (he’s not supposed to get out of bed unassisted). He’s still disoriented and confused as to what happened to him. But does recognize the members of his family and who they are. We continue hoping and praying that his memory improves a little each day. All tubes have been removed. His major medical expenses will be covered, but life’s day to day and month to month expenses continue on. We will be having a fundraiser soon. I’ll keep everyone posted. He made some progress today, and that is most important. Keep sending the good energy his way!

Friday. It was cold. It rained in the morning, rained again briefly in the afternoon. Phil Serpe won the John Morrissey. And Frank improved

His family has been with him daily and witnessed the inner strength (or could be stubbornness, doesn’t matter) that has allowed him to begin his recovery. His medical team is very pleased with his progress. His prognosis is excellent. Thank you for all those prayers. They work. 

Theroux dedicated Tuesday’s show at the Glass to Frank and will do again next week. Good will reigned.

Donations followed. Let’s make the first one on us.