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Thirty years later, donor still remembers Via Christi employee’s kindness

May 16, 1981, was just another day to Roger Silva, then patient accounts manager for Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis.

In fact, Silva doesn’t recall meeting Nerino and Maria Negri, opera singers who met at the San Francisco Opera, fell in love, married and “lived life out of a suitcase” before settling in Nerino’s native Bologna, Italy.

But for Maria, that’s the day fate steered them to Via Christi. More than three decades later, the Wichita Falls, Texas, native still remembers in detail that life-saving hospital stay and Silva.

“Here we arrive out of the blue with nothing and they do this enormous surgery,” says Maria, who recently added a $10,000 bequest to Via Christi Foundation in her will in Silva’s honor. Her husband lived another 17 wonderful years, she says — years they might not have shared had fate not brought them to Kansas and Via Christi.

Maria initially planned to visit her father at his home in Augusta, and at the last minute Nerino decided to join her.

The day before their scheduled return to Italy, Nerino felt pains in his neck. They went to a doctor in Augusta, who sent them to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis, where Nerino underwent emergency quintuple bypass surgery.

“Your husband isn’t sick anymore,” the doctor told Maria once surgery was over. She then had a new worry — how to pay for his hospital stay. She met with Silva and explained that they had no insurance or any significant savings and he arranged a long-term payment plan at significant discount.

“He was so nice, so understanding,” recalls Maria.

Silva, who retired from Via Christi in 1996, says he routinely worked to arrange payment plans for patients with large bills.

”These actions were always performed in the spirit of the hospital’s founding Sisters and their philosophy of serving mankind,” he says. “Still, it’s extremely gratifying that she should remember me.”

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