GIANCARLO RASTELLI:
A life of service for a service to life.
An example to young doctors.

Doctor Giancarlo Rastelli, heart surgeon and researcher, died 2 February 1970 at Rochester Minnesota.
After many years it is easy to say that Giancarlo Rastelli was the leader of cardiovascular research at the Mayo Clinic at Rochester Minnesota. It was he who discovered Rastelli 1 and Rastelli 2, the two surgical methods that, now for many years, save thousands of babies in the world and which for many years have also been used as avant-garde methods in the Russian Federation.

But it is difficult to retrace the course of this young doctor from Parma, a complete Christian, a Marian devotee, a poor emigrant with a NATO scholarship, a humble Italian doctor in the open competition of the minds and the millions in America. It is difficult to explain to the young doctors of today how he made these discoveries alone and, above all, in the last 5 terrible years of the illness that he had contracted through work and research. He diagnosed himself, suffered in silence, day after day, reducing to a minimum his hours of sleep, stealing time from life without keeping it for himself. He wore with dignity the death that was eating into him, taming it with his usual optimistic smile, the smile of the young man who is always able to see further and higher, even in everyday life. When he was a student, if he was asked :< What would you do if you knew that you were going to die?> he replied with the words of S. Filippo Neri "I would continue to play ball." The ball for him was his profession in the American experimental heart surgery rooms or in the Pathological Anatomy Archives where he went to examine hundreds of operated and preserved hearts. There he remained until 4 days before his death, coherent, true to himself, bound with passion to his research, to his patients. Yet Gian, as he was called by everybody, even in America, was young (only 37 when he died,) handsome, likeable, full of jokes and good humour. Professor Kirklin, one of the greatest American heart surgeons, wrote these words about him after his death: "The first thing that I noticed was his handsome Latin face, that infectious smile…his great humanity for his fellow man."

Giancarlo believed in man in toto. He had been brought up by the Jesuits in Parma ( Padre Molin Mosè Pradel) within the culture of "the man to be saved" and of service to others, always aware that doctors, hospitals, and research centres only exist because there are ill people. These people and structures have been created around the figure of the patient, and not to guarantee jobs to employees. The patient as a person as the most important, absolute priority objective. Everybody remembers how the days and Gian's house were always free to give hospitality to Italian children with heart diseases while they were waiting for their operations, and how he was always the first to contribute, when necessary, to help to pay for their operations in America. The table in his American house was attached to the floor and leaned; a boiled egg or apple placed on the table would roll onto the floor. But for his guests, the children and their parents, every day he would hand round the mixed salad of many boiled eggs, the frugal meals of the researcher (and as such poorly paid) who had chosen to grow in science and solidarity rather than in money. " A humble doctor- wrote his colleague Tiberio D'Aloia - but proud to reach the crux of the matter, the point where the many questions of man meet. He succeeded because he loved medicine aimed at the person…For all of us doctors it was the hope of building a different, more human, society", to change society, not to be subject to it. "His discoveries-D'Aloia continues-for the correction of the truncus arteriosus and for the transposition of the great vessels were very difficult, but I can never forget how he presented them to us, with simplicity, on a piece of crumpled paper, as if we would understand his language and yet he was always open to criticism from us. And if the others did not understand, he would think that he himself was the fool "because" he said "the truly cultured person must make himself accessible to all, otherwise he is a charlatan who speaks only for himself ."
He also explained their illnesses, and the treatments, to his patients, without hiding behind convenient professional secrets. "Even if you only have a few minutes to visit a patient" he wrote, "enter, sit next to him, smile, take him by the hand, meet him as a brother with a common destiny", not as a number, a hospital inmate. He was always pained by that patient awaiting treatments and hope from him.

From the Mayo Clinic (charitable organization), when he was yet to be called to research, he wrote: " Here the earthenware jars break immediately. The values in play are real and are examined every day. There is no place for nepotism, politics, academicism and influence."
The most important message of Giancarlo's life for young people was: interrogate yourself every day and every hour and see how you match up against your degree, profession, essence, humanity, Christianity. Never live off past profits.
The church has shown interest in this figure as an example to young doctors. An example of charity in the profession and of professional conduct in charity. For his humane-Christian qualities he was awarded the "Premio Missione Del Medico" post mortem by the company "Carlo Erba". Because of his scientific merits conferences in his name are held all over the world. He was awarded three gold medals at Washington, and he was buried ad honorem in the chapel of the University of Parma. He has streets, memorial stones, schools and hospital wards that bear his name in recognition of what he did for all of "the others of the world ". To save them.

Rosangela Rastelli Zavattaro


<< indietro