Greensburg pediatrician's legacy is he taught parents to love their kids — regardless
By Luis Fábregas
Published: Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Aida Spino knew it was time to say goodbye.
Her husband of 46 years, Dr. Pascal Spino, was sick with pneumonia, his mind robbed by Alzheimer's disease. She'd taken him to Westmoreland Hospital, where she stayed with him day and night, just like she had for the past year as his health declined.
“It's time to go,” she told him. “It's all right. Your family is waiting for you.”
Dr. Spino, 91, died a few hours later. The beloved Greensburg pediatrician treated hundreds, if not thousands, of children from across the Westmoreland County community. He was the type of doctor who hugged his young patients, gave them lollipops and paid house calls.
“I don't think there are doctors like him these days,” a former patient, Jamie Shafer of Arlington, Va., wrote in an email after a January story in this newspaper.
Early in his career, Spino lived above his office. When a concerned parent called in the middle of the night, he'd come down in his pajamas, hair disheveled and eyes half-closed. He sold his practice in 2006, but his name remains part of the fabric of Greensburg.
Spino's active life changed with his Alzheimer's diagnosis, which came soon after retirement. He slept most of the time, although his wife encouraged him to take walks. He watched the birds and cars. She fed him yogurt and ice cream. She almost never left his side, quietly hoping his mind would return from the devastating journey that is Alzheimer's.
“I think Dr. Spino had made his peace and wanted to go,” Mrs. Spino, 81, told me this week. “When he was awake, he was compassionate and affectionate. That would last very shortly, and pretty soon he would go to sleep. I was grateful that he didn't suffer.”
As she spoke about her husband, Mrs. Spino shared with me a story her mother had told her when she was a child.
“When you die so peacefully, it's because you have finished your duties on earth,” her mother said. “You've finished your journey here, and you have to start other duties in some other place.”
Even so, Mrs. Spino confided that she feels lost without her husband. On the day we talked, she had just returned from a short drive over to Wood Street, where her husband, the son of Italian immigrants, grew up. As she drove by, she recalled the vegetable garden Dr. Spino's mother had tended years ago.
“You have no idea how heartbroken I am,” she said.
Dr. Spino's legacy, she said, is that he taught parents that regardless of how tough life gets, you have to love your family and your children.
“He always said, ‘If you get mad at your children, don't do anything like slap them,' ” she said. “ ‘Wait, chill out, and then sit down and talk it over.' He loved children more than anything else.”
Her husband remains in her thoughts virtually every minute. Mrs. Spino wants to continue his practice of helping others by finding volunteer work to help the homeless. But not before she sorts through hundreds of cards from former patients.
She finds comfort in knowing that her husband died happy. She watched him take his last breaths, a bittersweet goodbye after a lifetime of joy.
“Don't forget to look after me,” she whispered to him. “Eventually, I will come, and we will be a family again.”
Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates seek to tap Alvarez’s remaining upside
- Steelers restructure Brown’s contract to become salary cap compliant
- Trade to Penguins caps frenetic period for winger Stempniak
- Pitt’s oldest known living football letterman turns 100
- Loss to Pitt propelled Clemson
- North Allegheny girls enjoy ‘bounce back’ win over WPIAL champion Penn-Trafford
- Keisel might be at end of Steelers career
- Pirates notebook: Closer Grilli sharp in brief outing
- Ex-tow truck operator says Pittsburgh officer, city put him out of business
- Hitler & Cold War II
- Connellsville boys tennis team has optimistic expectations