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A father-son relationship is a sacred thing.
For Nicco DeMasco, a junior on the men’s basketball team, and his father, Steve DeMasco, this is no different.
“I think Nicco admires his dad a lot. His dad is a guy who built himself up from a rough beginning. But he became a very, very well educated and accomplished man. And he’s an extremely hard worker. And I think Nicco carries a lot of those qualities into what he does,” men’s basketball coach Robert Colbert said.
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Nicco DeMasco said that he tries to live his life how his father has lived his life.
“I couldn’t ask for a better father-son relationship. I talk to him about everything. He’s my biggest critic and my biggest fan at the same time,” Nicco DeMasco said.
“Nicco is everything that I never was and everything that I wanted to be,” Steve DeMasco said.
Kelly DeMasco, Nicco DeMasco’s mother, said that it is nice to see someone Nicco’s age want to spend time with their father.
Nicco DeMasco, his twin brother, Mike DeMasco, and his youngest brother, Gianni DeMasco, all have a deep admiration for their father. Especially when it comes to Kung Fu, something the family has been involved in together for a very long time.
“As soon as I could walk, he had me in a gi and a belt, punching and kicking stuff,” Nicco DeMasco said. “Everyone in my family knows Kung Fu. My mom is a second degree black belt. My twin brother does it. My little brother is really good. We are a whole little family of ninjas I guess.”
Grandmaster Steve DeMasco has taught Kung Fu to people all across the world for the last forty years. He owns his own series of Kung Fu studios across the United States, Steve DeMasco’s Shaolin Kung Fu Studios. But one thing he couldn’t do was teach his three sons the art of Kung Fu.
“It’s real hard to be their dad and their teacher. The first time I tried teaching them, they started crying. I didn’t teach them after that. I sent them to one of my high ranking black belts for years and once they got older, I started working with them personally,” Steve DeMasco said.
Another thing that ties Nicco DeMasco and his father together is their love for basketball.
“Basketball connects us. I talk to him after every single game. He’s always been telling me what I need to improve on,” Nicco said.
Nicco DeMasco said that his dad has always tried to help him improve his game as much as he could.
But last June, the DeMasco family almost lost their seemingly invincible father and husband. On a yearly family vacation to the Dominican Republic, Steve DeMasco fell very ill.
“By the third day of the trip, I couldn’t get out of bed. I went to the doctors on site. They gave me pain medicine, it didn’t work. Then they shipped me off to the hospital where they gave me shots for the pain. And the doctor told me that they needed to get me out of the country because they didn’t know what was wrong with me,” Steve DeMasco said.
He added, “They knew they couldn’t help me there. So we left the country. They hopped me up on all kind of medicine and told me that if I showed too much pain, they wouldn’t let me fly because it’s too much responsibility.”
Steve DeMasco said that an ambulance took him right to the plane and he was able to hide his severe pain until he got on the plane. Steve DeMasco said that once he landed back in the states, he was immediately taken, by ambulance, to the Cheshire Medical Center in Keene.
Steve DeMasco was then transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. where a group of doctors began working on him. They found that he had a very bad internal staph infection.
“They don’t know how he got it. He could have had it and it didn’t hit him until we got there but we have no idea. The internal staph infection started traveling through his blood, hitting major organs and shutting down his kidneys,” Nicco said.
Steve DeMasco said he was in the hospital for four months because the infection was eating away at his bones.
“They took out my left hip for eight months. I got it back just three weeks ago,” Steve DeMasco said.
The Kung Fu grandmaster, who has been extremely active for his entire life, was in a hospital bed and wheel chair for months. But his family stayed by his side, praying for him everyday.
“One of the major things you have to have to get through this is faith. Not just in yourself but there has to be someone a little bigger than yourself. I think having a faith in God played a major part in this. Because we knew this was in his hands and he would take care of us,” Kelly DeMasco said.
“Three different times, they told my wife to make arrangements for my funeral,” Steve DeMasco said. But Kelly never let that get her or her boys down.
If it wasn’t for the Grandmaster’s excessive amount of training, both mentally and physically, he would not have made it through the injury.
Nicco DeMasco said that Kung Fu saved his father’s life.
“The doctors told him that the conditioning, strength training, and mental training he does is the only reason why he survived. They said the average 59-year-old would not have made it. He’s a medical miracle,” Nicco DeMasco said.
Steve DeMasco said that this has been his greatest test so far.
“It took everything I had to beat it. Anyone can recover from an injury. But it took everything I had inside of me to not let this injury kill me,” Steve DeMasco said.
He added, “There were times when I was depressed. But I would just replace those thoughts. In my mind, I am going to be kicking again real soon and I never stopped thinking that. I’m a warrior and so are my boys. I beat it. With God’s help, I beat this.”
But for a family that is particularly close, being so spread out was one of the hardest things for them to deal with.
Nicco DeMasco’s twin brother, Mike DeMasco, said that his family was spread out across the state while his father was sick.
He said that his mother was in Lebanon, N.H. with his father while him, Nicco and Gianni were at their home in Richmond, N.H.
“We were away from the action most of the time. It was really tough on Gianni because he was the youngest but we all handled it pretty well. It was just something that I wasn’t ready for,” Nicco’s twin, Mike, said.
Kelly DeMasco said she was proud of her boys for stepping up when she couldn’t be home to care for them.
“They were living on their own. They had to cook, shop, do laundry, take care of their younger brother, make sure he does what needs to get done. And I wasn’t there to make sure they were doing everything they needed to do. They were expected to do it and I knew they would,” Kelly DeMasco said.
Although Nicco DeMasco tried to hide his extremely high stress levels, his teammates and coach saw a change in his behavior throughout the whole ordeal.
“Nicco was very stressed, understandably so. He is very, very close with his Dad. They have a very close family. There was a lot going on for quite a while and it was touch and go. The family was very spread out and disjointed,” Coach Colbert said. “That’s a lot of stress to be put on a college student.”
Nicco couldn’t hide his excessive stress because he took the injury especially hard.
“It crushed me. I always thought he was this big invincible man and that nothing would ever happen to him. But this infection almost killed him. I mean he flat lined three times in the hospital. I was scared,” Nicco DeMasco said.
Steve DeMasco said that Nicco always acted like nothing had happened.
“He would come up and see me at the hospital and be super positive. I know he was scared but he never showed it,” Steve DeMasco said.
The DeMasco family did not use Steve’s injury as a crutch.
They took the experience, learned from it and used it to help them build a much stronger relationship with one another.
“I think that this injury brought our whole family closer. This made me realize what I had right in front of me. At any point, something you love can be taken from you but I’m thankful it wasn’t,” Nicco said.
Steve DeMasco is on the road to recovery now. “He’s finally out of the woods. He’s just trying to get stronger every day.”
Steve DeMasco’s recovery is now in full swing.
It will be a while before he can return to Kung Fu, but doctor’s said they are already amazed with his progress.
“The day of my operation to put my hip back in, I was standing up. I was walking stairs the second day, got released the third day. And now I am training five days a week for rehab. I am not even supposed to be out of a wheel chair for another four weeks,” Steve DeMasco said.
“I’m really proud of him. I always knew that he would do what he had to do to get better. He’s a fighter,” Kelly DeMasco said.
Michelle Berthiaume can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org