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Extraordinary healer Carmi Fazio

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Becoming a healer is a calling and, certainly, many in the nursing field can rightfully claim that title. But in mid-April, Carmi Fazio — who works with Molina Healthcare of Illinois — was picked as one of three finalists for the CURE Media Group’s Extraordinary Healer Award for Oncology Nursing.

Fazio — who is Sicilian on her father’s side, Genovese and Romano on her mother’s — traces a direct line between her nursing skills and her family background.

“Perhaps I am a bit biased but I have never met an Italian who wouldn’t help those in need,” says Fazio, who resides in Niles. “I think it’s instinctual to our heritage; respect for human life runs deep.” Her parents cooked meals and provided help to whoever needed it, but it wasn’t until an uncle suffered a stroke that Fazio chose to enter the nursing field.

“After he had to be placed into a long-term care facility, I realized he wasn’t receiving the best care,” Fazio recalls. “I then decided that I wanted to help others in similar situations and devote myself to providing them with the care and support they needed most.”

Molina Healthcare provides government-funded care for low-income individuals; Fazio has been with Molina since November of 2014 and currently works at their Oak Brook office. With a specialty in end-of-life care, Fazio has studied cardiology and hematology in addition to oncology.

Remarkably, Fazio has been with 500 people at the moment of their passing. “Most have been oncology patients, which is why I know this disease in such depth.”

And in turn, Fazio’s patients get to know her deeply. Lisa Chapman, an endometrial adenocarcinoma survivor, nominated Fazio for the Extraordinary Healer Award. Chapman said she not only pulled her out of her deepest despair but also continues to be one of her best friends, even though they are thousands of miles away.

She wrote: “Carmi Fazio is the most generous soul that I know and goes beyond the role of nurse. She gives of herself completely. She makes herself available to her patients any time day or night.”

This is no exaggeration. “Her patients all have her personal phone numbers and know that they can call her at any hour,” Chapman said in her nomination letter. “Carmi has always said that her patients have to come first.”

Indeed, Fazio sees the people in her care as nothing less than inspirational: “I am honored every day to stand so small among the mightiest of warriors.”

But ask Fazio whether she’s a mighty warrior herself, and she assumes a much different perspective. “I don’t see it as going to an extraordinary length,” she says. “I stand on an endless battlefield; this is their fight and many of them have limited time. Despite that, they choose to share their precious time and experience with their disease with me.”

With a poet’s grace, she adds: “I really wish others could see it from my view. Every day is a sight to behold. I watch my patients fight with such dignity and grace. When the battle is over, I watch them either walk off that battlefield with their heads held high — battered and bruised, but survivors nonetheless — I watch them soar from a perch beyond the thinnest of veils.”

About Lou Carlozo

A former longtime staff writer, editor and columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Lou Carlozo is a personal finance contributor to Reuters and the proud writer of Fra Noi's Lou&A column, which spotlights important Italian Americans. He is currently studying for his master's degree at National-Louis University, where he teaches journalism and writing on the graduate school level. He also writes for the Tribune Content Agency and a variety of other freelance outlets including DealNews, Money Under 30 and Yesware. He lives in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago with his wife of more than 17 years, Amy (a hospice chaplain), and two children.

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