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Every day is a gift


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Every day is a gift

By: MARK ZIMMARO

Burlington County Times

PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP - Bernard Chiappone has made a lot of friends among the staff at the Deborah Heart and Lung Center during the last 25 years.

"This is my second home," said Chiappone, 78. "The staff and the patients are wonderful here. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them."

Actually, Chiappone shouldn't be here. About three years ago the Bordentown Township resident, one of the most valuable volunteers and well-liked people at Deborah, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and told he had only months to live.

Instead, Chiappone, known as "Chip" around the hospital, ignored the diagnosis and continues to put smiles on the faces of patients who are waiting to have serious procedures done.

He's been there, too.

About 27 years ago Chiappone underwent surgery for an aneurysm discovered behind his heart. Since then he has had numerous procedures done at Deborah, including four bypass surgeries and operations as a result of his lung cancer. For the last 25 years he has shown up twice a week to greet patients and discuss their concerns about undergoing surgery.

"Nothing else can be done for me, so what can I do?" said Chiappone, who uses a walker to hold his oxygen tanks so he can get around more conveniently. "They saved my life, so I wanted to give something back. I said I wanted to volunteer here for 25 years. Now that I've gotten 25, I'm going for 30."

Chiappone is the longest-tenured volunteer to work at the hospital. His daughter, Evelyn Richardson of Burlington Township, is also one of 52 active volunteers at Deborah.

Richardson said she began volunteering more than four years ago to see her father in action.

"He loves this place," she said. "Every day is a gift for him, and even though he knows he has cancer, he still wants to be here to help people."

Dianna Barker, a registered nurse who is the liaison director of volunteers at Deborah, said Chiappone's value is immeasurable.

"He's been through it," Barker said. "Who better to have here than someone like that? We here at the hospital deal with the scientific aspect of it. Chip is able to do it from an emotional aspect. A lot of people know him around here and he holds their hand and brings a smile to their faces when they need it."

Chiappone said he enjoys his time at the hospital when he isn't home with his wife of 55 years, Eveline. Chiappone, a Brooklyn native, met his wife, a native of Germany, on New Year's Eve 1948 while serving in the Army in Germany.

The couple renewed their vows at the Burlington County Country Club in Westampton for their 55th wedding anniversary.

"Well, I need to get out of the house sometimes," he said with a laugh. "She likes to get rid of me sometimes if I'm around the house too much. So I come here."

Contact: mzimmaro@phillyBurbs.com or 609-871-8059

http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/news_de ... -gift.html

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