Anthony and Anna Torchia have owned Coral Sea Pools in Briarcliff Manor since they graduated from high school, and the business runs like clockwork. Anna manages the office staff, and Anthony leads the construction team, building, opening, and closing pools throughout Westchester.
And they always know that July 4th weekend will be a busy weekend. But in 2011, an unexpected nightmare happened on June 26, the weekend immediately before Independence Day. Anthony and his son, Anthony, Jr., then 16, were hanging out in the garage at their home in Ossining. Both Anthony, Jr., and his sister, Daniella, had been riding motorcycles since the age of four, so it wasn’t a big deal to any of them when Anthony, Jr., put on his helmet and goggles, and went for a spin on the family’s four-wheeler.
But the ATV’s grip malfunctioned, and Anthony, Jr., crashed into a stone wall. When his father went to check on him, Anthony, Jr., was unconscious, and there was blood coming out of his ears. “I started screaming,” Anthony, 48, says. “I didn’t want to leave him, because I thought he’d die in my arms.”
Anna called 911, and Anthony, Jr., was rushed to the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center. His skull was fractured in four places; he had four broken ribs and a ruptured spleen. “They literally were fighting to keep him alive,” Anna says, crying as she tells the story more than a year later. “With his head injuries, they didn’t know what they would find. It was a horrific, scary experience.” Anthony, Jr., was in critical condition for 12 days and needed four blood transfusions. The couple had to make a quick decision about whether they should remove his spleen and opted not to.
“Every other day there was another hurdle—a spleen, blood transfusion, stomach swelling up, water buildup around his lungs,” Anthony recalls.
And while both parents camped out at the hospital—Anna didn’t leave her son’s side for three weeks—Anthony needed to get back to the office to attend to business. “I had to keep the jobs moving even though we were in crisis,” Anthony says. The Torchias purposely run their business so no one is indispensable, so if a staff member quits on short notice or has a medical emergency, someone else on staff can also do the work. They applied the same philosophy to their own job responsibilities, so, while Anthony went to work for a few hours at a time, Anna didn’t need to leave her son’s side.
There were exceptions. None of Anthony’s team was able to apply concrete to a pool, a difficult task only he could do. The day Anthony had to fill a pool with concrete was the first full day he left his son’s side at the hospital. Anthony was fearful his son would take a turn for the worse when he was gone. “He was semi-out-of-the-woods, but not really,” Anthony says. Anthony spent the whole day thinking about his son, but the necessity of keeping the business operational compelled him to remain focused on the task at hand. Still, there are limits to one’s concentration and composure. “I came back to the office when Anthony Junior was in the hospital, and everyone was asking how he was. I just broke down crying,” Anthony says.
After three weeks, Anthony, Jr.’s condition stabilized, and he was sent home. “Maria Fareri saved his life,” Anna says. Both Anna and Anthony went back to work full-time, and Anna’s recently retired mother stayed with Anthony, Jr.
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Still, Anna says, “It was hard. You don’t want to leave your kid at home if he possibly might need you.” Anthony adds, “Every night when we came home from work, we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s like when he was a baby, going into his room every hour.”
Today, Anthony, Jr., has fully recovered from the accident. In fact, just two months after the accident, he ran a blood drive at their home because he’d learned that hospitals have blood shortages over the summer, when a lot of accidents happen but fewer people are available to donate blood. Daniella decided to study nursing as a result of seeing her brother’s recovery.
Looking back, the Torchias are grateful that their staff helped to keep Coral Sea Pools running in a time of crisis. “I couldn’t be any more thankful or appreciative,” Anna says. “We have their backs as well. When your family needs you, you need to be there. Your family should always come first.”