What could be more romantic than spending Christmas in Rome? My niece and her husband were flying out Dec. 21 and returning Dec. 28; Val and Jeffrey had their trip mapped out:  the Colosseum, Christmas mass at the Vatican, the city of Florence and on and on.

As each day passed, we were treated to beautiful pictures on Facebook—both Val and Jeffrey are excellent photographers. Oh, did I mention the food? Mmmm, we gazed at mouth-watering photos that would be perfect in a gourmet magazine not to mention our own dining room tables! They both agreed that the days were quickly passing and before they knew it, they’d be heading home.

Late afternoon on Dec. 27 (4:15 p.m. New York time, 10:15 p.m. in Rome), I received a text message from Val:

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“Are you home?”

“Yes, I am.”

A few minutes later Val called.

“Where are you, Val?”

“In Italy,” she answered in a shaky voice.

“Honey, what’s the matter; why are you calling me?”

“Oh, Auntie, Jeffrey is violently ill; we have to get on that plane tomorrow and get him home. But he’s so sick. The problem is when we went to JFK for the flight over, we took a train from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central Terminal and then cabbed it over to the airport. Jeff can’t do that tomorrow in his condition.  Can you help us?”

Phew, had to think this one out. I told her to give me all the details of their flight home, credit card number, etc. and I’d get in touch with the limo service I use. In the meantime, I strongly suggested she call her dad, my brother, Jack, in California just for some moral support.

Val texted me back: She had spoken to Jeffrey’s doctor in the States; he advised she get him to a hospital ASAP for hydration and strong anti-nausea meds, and they were on their way. Jack told her to ask at the hospital for someone who spoke English and to let them know she was a nurse. Val confided in me upon their return home, that while Jeff was getting IVs, she whispered in his ear:

“You want to go home? You have to suck it up and get us out of here!”

“I will, I will, I want to get home as bad as you!”

At 1 a.m. my time, another message:

“Jeffrey is stabilized and we got a couple of hours rest. Did you get in touch with the limo service?”

“Don’t worry about that; when you click on your cell after landing at JFK, everything you need to know will be right there.”

Yes, Auntie did her part. The limo service assured me they’d be at JFK to meet the 6:35 p.m. Alitalia flight and would meet Val and Jeffrey in the baggage claim area after they passed through customs. This service came to the rescue big time!

At 3 a.m. New York time, I received the last text:

“We’re on the plane, thank God.”

From what Val described, the full-to-capacity flight home was like a huge Italian homecoming party. After first-class passengers were served, whatever food and drink remained was served to the others—not Jeffrey, of course! Flight attendants were kind to him, making sure he was comfortable, and that Val had a glass of wine, and some food—she finally took a deep breath and relaxed.

Once they landed at JFK, the rest of the trip went as smooth as silk. They breezed through customs and met their driver in the Baggage Claim area. Val called me from the car:

“Auntie, we can’t thank you enough for helping us during this nightmare, we can always count on you. Our driver is so kind, just what we needed after these last few days. Oh, how good it is to be back in the U.S. of A. No place like home.”

Note: Jeffrey is doing much better; however, he is going for tests to determine just what caused this terrible and frightening attack.