Patient Stories: 
Dan Bellizzi
Dan Bellizzi

As you enter the main lobby of Hospital for Special Care (HSC) on Wednesday mornings there will be a friendly, elegantly-dressed gentleman greeting you at the front desk. His name is Dan Bellizzi. Ask anyone here; ‘Dapper Dan’ always wears a freshly pressed three-piece suit and a big smile.

Over twenty years ago, Dan first entertained patients at HSC as a member of the “Barbershoppers.” Today, he still comes to play the accordion for patients on the Medical Rehab Unit, which he plays by ear — using no sheet music. In addition he volunteers at the front desk one day each week and often covers for others who cannot make it in for their shift. In his 80s, he is one of the most informed and professional volunteers and he is always ready with a new joke.

Dan came to HSC from Saint Francis Hospital in February of 2011 for rehab in the Cardiac Medical Unit. By June, only four months later, Dan became one of HSC’s front desk volunteers. Michele Chambrello, the CMU Care Manager, says “Dan’s recovery and rehab has always gone well due to his motivation, participation in the plan of care and receptiveness to learning.”

He remembers Michele’s visits to see him every day. She would say, “Good morning Sunshine!” with a towel draped on her arm, balancing the tray of medication on her shoulder. “For the salad course, we have Norvasc for your blood pressure, and our pasta course for today consists of a multivitamin.” She says Dan would add his own witty pun to make this usually monotonous, yet necessary task more light-hearted and funny.

Dan has a chronic cardiac condition. He has been admitted to HSC three times since his initial admission. However, this doesn’t stunt his spunk and motivated, independent nature. Colleen Doyle, one of his therapists says he “is ready to rock when he comes in, he is on a mission and he is going to do tasks his way.” She says Dan was open to his therapy, but he was careful to assess the tasks and make sure they would help him regain his independence outside of the hospital. “He has places to be and people who count on him, so he wants to make sure he’ll be there,” she says.

To date, Dan has volunteered over 180 hours at HSC. He volunteers two days a week at the State of Connecticut Judicial Department. During his first admission to HSC, his nurse observed that his status had improved a lot, so he decided to purchase his dream vehicle: a Dodge Ram. Come rain or shine, or even snow, Dan has been seen in his truck coming in to volunteer. “He is someone who is not defined by his age,” Colleen explains.

It was the nature of HSC, he says, that made him want to “do something.” “Everyone here is like family. Even the housekeeping services say ‘how are you?’ When food services found out that I don’t care for broccoli, I was never given broccoli again.” During his first admission he said, “I believed I belonged here. I knew I had to do something when I got discharged.” Six years later, Dan continues to “do something,” and he does it to a T.

Dan passed away in 2017, after 90 happy and full years.