With the tap of his gavel, Bronx County Supreme Court Justice Barry Salman gave Victor Vaccariello, Jr. six more years of life.
Victor Jr. was born on July 26, 1989 with multiple mental and physical disabilities, including craniosynostosis, a birth defect that affects skull development and Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a neurological disorder.
During the needed surgery to correct craniosynostosis, Victor Jr.'s airway collapsed and he stopped breathing.
As a result of his disorders, Victor Jr. needed two forms of life support: a feeding tube for nutrition and a tracheostomy tube for breathing. He received 12 hours of nursing care each day.
At the end of 1995, Victor Vaccariello Sr. received a letter from his insurance provider that effectively ended his son's nursing care.
The insurance company said that Victor Jr. required just two hours of care twice a week to change the tracheostomy tube. During the appeals process to reinstate the child's nurses, the insurance company sent a nursing agency to assess Victor Jr.
The agency concluded that the boy needed a minimum of 12 hours of nursing care.
Despite the assessment, the insurance company refused to reinstate Victor Jr.'s care. Instead, they wanted to send another nursing agency for another assessment.
Meanwhile, Victor Jr. began to have seizures and "was going downhill fast." "I had to do everything in power to keep my son alive," said Vaccariello, a single parent.
Deciding to litigate the matter, Vaccariello hired Joseph B. Pritti, a solo practitioner in Manhattan, to seek an injunction to continue his son's nursing care.
Justice Salman granted the injunction. Victor Jr. lived a happy life until his death on February 14, 2002.
"God took my son, not my insurance company," said Vaccariello. After his son's death, his pediatrician told him that without the proper nursing care, Victor Jr. would have suffered and died within six months.
Nearly ten years later, Vaccariello wrote to the New York State Bar Association to express his appreciation of two men who prolonged his son's life. He remains eternally grateful for the legal help he received from Pritti, who died in 1998. Every day he thinks about what Justice Salman did for his son.
"He stopped the bully from killing my son. I cannot say enough good things about him," said Victor Sr. "He is my hero."
The power of the Supreme Court continues to amaze Vaccariello. One day, he might meet the man who saved his son's life.
"It would be like meeting Superman," said Vaccariello.