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National Steel Orch Boss Doing Well After Surgery

By Terry Joseph
July 03, 2002

Popular Petrotrin Phase II Pan Groove frontline player and general manager of the National Steel Orchestra (NSOTT), Franklyn Ollivieri expects to be back home before month's end, after undergoing eye surgery in Miami, Florida.

Ollivieri suffered a smashed right eye on the job last month, while wrestling with an intruder at the orchestra's Nelson Street, Port of Spain office, when an NSOTT security guard sought to help bring the situation under control.

A blow from the guard's baton, intended for the intruder connected with Ollivieri's right eye. He was rushed to the Mount Hope hospital and later transferred to Port of Spain General where a first round of surgery was performed.

With the assistance of Acting Consul-General to Miami Clement James and NSOTT Board members Dr Dawn Batson and Ian Belgrave, arrangements were made to transfer Ollivieri to the Bascom Eye Hospital in Miami, Florida, where he underwent further surgery. He is currently recuperating at the home of long-standing friend Choy Sin Choo Quan and scheduled to visit the Miami hospital on July 9 for further assessment.

Speaking last Sunday evening to the Daily Express, Ollivieri said he underwent a four-hour operation, during which he was able to witness the removal of his right eye and watch the work being performed on it, as a local anaesthetic was used for the procedure.

"It was really weird to be looking on with one eye while the operation was being performed on another," he said. "They said I suffered a detached retina and to stabilize the situation they put a gas bubble in the eye, which should take about a month to clear.

"I have to go back to the hospital next week but the good news is I am experiencing improved vision already, although I cannot travel on an airplane until the eye can take the pressure in the cabin. "But I have improved from seeing only silhouettes to making out colours and images," Ollivieri said. "The doctors said if I am lucky I will regain 100 percent vision, but at present they are not guaranteeing more than about 80 percent.

"This is the view of the Director of Eye Surgery at the hospital, who they brought in to do the operation. I am praying for the best and at the same time praying that no one else has to go through this because it is not pleasant. "I am grateful for all the support I received from my friends and from Pan Trinbago and NSOTT," he said. "Particularly Boogsie Sharpe, who called me three times per day every day, whether he was in London, Manchester or Switzerland." He also showered glowing praises on wife Yolande, who called while The Express visited with Ollivieri and master pan tuner Bertie Marshall, who although somewhat reclusive, took time out to visit him at the Port of Spain hospital.

"It was half the battle having family and friends rally around in this time," he said. "I have been Bertie's barber since 1965, since we played together in Hilanders and he said 'hurry up and get well because I don't want nobody else trimming me.'

"You know, the various pan groups really came out to offer support and I want to mention that, because people still look at pannists as a bunch of people who don't care about one another or anyone else," he said. "At least this accident served to show that is not so."

Several groups here in North America have planned or put on events to help take care of Ollivieri's massive medical bill. Starlift Old Boys of New York staged a benefit boat ride last month and this Sunday Northside Steel Orchestra of Miami is hosting a similar event.

Ollivieri said this Friday Phase II Pan Groove is putting on an event at its Hamilton Street, Woodbrook panyard to further assist with the fundraising drive.

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