By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Westwood – Beginning April 12, singer and actor Bob DiCicco of Westwood battled the coronavirus while hospitalized for 43 days, 30 of which he was on a ventilator in the ICU. Intensive rehabilitation followed.
Heavily sedated during much of his hospitalization, he ultimately got updates from his brother.
“My brother said that they weren’t giving me much of a chance to survive,” DiCicco shared by phone from a rehabilitation facility.
Later in DiCicco’s six-week hospital stay, his brother was able to relay a more encouraging message.
“The doctor told my brother that I reminded him of a tenacious bulldog with a great will to live – which is true,” DiCicco said. “I was never scared. If it weren’t for the nurses there, I never would have made it. Hats off to them!”
DiCicco was unaware that he had COVID-19 until after his hospital admittance. His girlfriend suspected that he needed medical attention when she heard him speak incoherently during a phone conversation. She contacted his neighbor, who called for an ambulance to rush him to Needham’s Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital.
“I was in pretty tough shape,” DiCicco acknowledged. “For 43 days, I was on my back in the hospital and my muscles atrophied.”
He was transferred June 2 to Needham’s Briarwood Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center to undergo treatment with physical, occupational and speech therapists.
“I need to get better with my balance,” DiCicco said in his 10th week of rehabilitation. “I’m getting better at walking with a walker; but whenever I go for a long walk out in the hallway, I still need assistance with the wheelchair behind me. Chances are I’ll need to leave here with a walker.”
Early symptoms that he developed were a dry cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms are particularly concerning for a vocalist.
“It’s going to take time for my voice to come fully back,” he noted. “My tone and timbre are beginning to come back, but it’s the breath control that I still need. Hopefully, it will get better as time goes by.”
In the meantime, his physical, occupational and speech therapy is complemented with ongoing well wishes.
“I’m very grateful to my friends who have reached out to me on Facebook, and with get-well cards and visits,” he shared. “It’s spurring me on and really helps.”
Two days before DiCicco’s hospital admission, he posted on Facebook a video of himself singing the tune “What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life?” While in rehab, he reposted the video with a note: “My last recording before COVID-19 interrupted my plans. But, I will be back!”
Self-described as “mostly an American Songbook type of guy,” DiCicco typically performs at varied venues ranging from cabarets to festivals. In addition to presenting a musical tribute to Tony Bennett at Boston Public Library and Framingham’s Amazing Things Arts Center, he has personally met the showbiz legend on a couple of occasions.
Last fall, DiCicco presented “And the Oscar Does Not Go to…” at Josephine’s Cabaret in Boston’s Club Café along with singer Cyndy Gale and musical accompanist Steve Heck. The show featured several decades of Oscar-nominated movie theme songs that lost.
“You’d be surprised how many beautiful songs didn’t cut the mustard at the Academy Awards,” DiCicco quipped.
Throughout 2018, he performed with singer Wendee Glick and others in “Love Letters from the Front.” The show tells stories of life, love and loss through wartime music and actual written correspondence between deployed service members and their families. Its statewide tour included a library, nonprofit arts theater, prep school, nightclubs, senior centers and assisted living residences.
“Everybody who sees the show gets very emotional,” DiCicco relayed. “At the Brookline Senior Center, a woman in tears said to me, ‘You sang my and my husband’s favorite song, ‘Moonlight Serenade.’ Thank you for bringing him back for at least a few minutes.’ That’s a feeling you never forget.”
DiCicco hopes to resume presenting customized productions of “Love Letters from the Front” at the same type of venues as well as colleges, museums and collaborations with the USO.
“Once I’m back on my feet, I can start working on this,” he said of reviving the show. “I just hope to God that they’ll find a vaccine for this virus and we can get back to our lives. I love being alive – that’s what keeps me going.”
Find more information about Bob DiCicco at rdicicco.com.