Farewell to Manfredi Saginario, the good Samaritan of medicine

Farewell to Manfredi Saginario, the good Samaritan of medicine
Written by aquitodovale

Manfredi Saginario, the good Samaritan of medicine, is gone. We greet him like this, with tears in his eyes and a swollen heart, with this definition – perfectly fitting, as anyone who has known him knows – coined many years ago by an elderly primary and which became the title of an article that the “Gazzetta” dedicated a few years ago. The Professor was very proud of it. He was truly a good Samaritan who had dedicated his life to medicine and, before that, to do good to others. He was unique: for his kindness, availability, intellectual vivacity and enthusiasm. It was an institution, to the point of becoming a typical Parmesan saying: is there someone who doesn’t seem to have all their wheels in place? “He must be sent to Saginario.”

He left at the age of 94, in the hospital, where he had been hospitalized for a few months. He certainly prayed to Padre Pio until the last moment: he must have prayed to him as he did so many other times when he hadn’t felt well: “Don’t play jokes, it’s too early to leave the earthly life, my patients need me “.

The first thought goes to the sweet Giuliana, his beloved wife, a life together and 61 years of marriage, and to the children: Antonio, a neurologist and psychiatrist (he works at the Piacenza Department of Mental Health), and Maria Grazia, a psychologist. And then to the thousands and thousands of patients, friends, people who loved him, because he deserved it.

The prediction of Padre Pio

He was Padre Pio’s great-grandson (the saint’s grandmother and the Professor’s maternal grandmother were sisters) and was, throughout his life, his best “ambassador” along the boot: he brought hundreds of pilgrims to Pietrelcina, distributed an infinity of santini. There was a very close relationship, born on the day when the young Manfredi, pushed by his parents, went to Padre Pio, to tell him about his idea of ​​being a missionary and his passion for medicine. He too told him, with a bit of embarrassment, that women did not leave him indifferent, on the contrary he admitted that he would like to get married: “You must be a doctor – Padre Pio cut it short – you will do good with the smock”. «Your voice will be more important than mine – he added – because you will make a career, you will reach the top: and you will be listened to. More than me: because I wear the habit and the people who come to me are prejudiced ».

Seventy years of profession

From 1951, the year of graduation (with honors), to today they have been working for more than seventy years: beyond qualifications and specializations (neuropsychiatrist, neurologist, child neuropsychiatrist and psychotherapist) and numerous offices, Saginario was, before everything, a doctor. Padre Pio had been right: that was his true vocation. With an impressive vitality, until a couple of years ago he toured Italy far and wide for visits and consultations. His historic clinic is in via Trento, but he also received in Piacenza, Sassuolo, Florence and Rome. And he found time – always! – to visit a friend in the hospital, for a phone call to a patient in difficulty or to a colleague for information on the condition of a sick friend.

Cheering for Parma

He pulled the plug only for Parma matches: he would not have given up on those for the world. He called himself “ultrà del Tardini” and told, with a hint of pride, of having been expelled from the central grandstand. They made him understand that he was not liked because he yelled too much. “That’s true, but at least at the stadium I’ll be able to scream, won’t I? Always and only correct things, never once in my life said to the referee – he said in an interview -. If I scream in the house, my wife calls me crazy. If I scream in the street they call 118. At the stadium I scream. I cheer the weaker players, too easy to cheer the strongest. In the side stand, now, they tolerate me ». Historical subscriber of the Crusaders, he has always bought a few more passes, to be able to lend them to some friends: it was the way to make a contribution to “his of him” Parma.

«I have never been very passionate about football – says his son Antonio – but I used to go to the Tardini to be with him. When I was born he gave me a Parma shirt. If I had become a footballer for the Crusaders I would have made him happy: but I made him happy anyway, having chosen to follow in his footsteps by enrolling in Medicine and then specializing in his branches ».

The revolutionary study

He arrived in Parma because his father had had a job as an art teacher at the Lambruschini institute, in the Certosa of via Mantova. The Romagnosi high school (he was Giorgio Torelli’s classmate) and then Medicine. Fresh out of college, he began to deal with dementia, took the first electric shocks. And he found himself somewhat by chance a speaker at a congress in Bologna that would enter the history of psychiatry. The study of the Parmesan research team was very avant-garde. Too much, it was feared: so much so that the director of the clinic did not find the courage to introduce himself. Not even his deputy, ditto the deputy of the deputy. The recent graduate was sent to Bologna, who did not realize how revolutionary the studio was, but he understood it when he began to hear hums of disapproval and then even saw congressmen throwing bananas at the stage from which he was speaking. He was truly revolutionary, that work: because it was claimed – in 1951 – that psychiatric drugs would change the world, fight madness and allow asylums to be closed. In the history of psychiatry, the speaker of that day appears as the fourth ever in the world to have talked about psychotropic drugs.

The carreer

From then on, a sparkling career, with an unspecified number of visits (only as a young neuropsychiatrist of the Health Fund, in the first years of work, he calculated that he had made thirty thousand), of participation in conferences, of publications of scientific works in journals Italian and international. In 1968 he was appointed head physician of the neurological division of the Parma regional hospital in Soragna (detached section) and then of the Fidenza hospital (from 1978 to ’96), where, one after the other, he opened centers dedicated to multiple sclerosis , neuromuscular diseases, cerebral vasculopathies, headache, epilepsy, dementia, spasmophilia, where he activated an autogenic training service. His neurological division was classified among the 100 best Italian hospitals and universities.

Part of the credit for the Division’s successes also goes to Beppe Grillo. The Prof and the comedian became friends after they met by chance in Athens, in front of the Parthenon. To raise funds, Saginario asked Grillo to do charity shows (“He never said no to me – he said once -. He got angry because I put the ticket at 50 lire and therefore he was forced to do two-hour shows”) . Almost 50 million were collected: a hyperbolic figure, in those years, very precious for doing research.

The awards

Chief emeritus of the Maggiore hospital and of the Vaio hospital, honorary citizen of Fidenza, Sant’Ilario award (certificate of merit in the 2015 edition). All titles and awards he was proud of. But the most beautiful recognition was the phone calls from old and new patients, requests for advice, visits (during the lockdown he was also equipped to make them using the technological platforms).

The writer will miss the thousand demonstrations of friendship, the affectionate phone calls (which had thinned out during the hospital stay: but never interrupted), the advice for a therapy and the “tips” for the “Gazzetta”, of which it is always been a faithful and attentive reader. We will miss him because he was unique, the Professor. But he will always remain in the heart, this extraordinary good Samaritan of medicine.

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