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WFNZ's Jim Celania delivers pizza and some uplift

Jim Celania, left, visits Nick Krizmanich, who was occupying his old room at Presbyterian Medical Center, and brings pizza.
Jim Celania, left, visits Nick Krizmanich, who was occupying his old room at Presbyterian Medical Center, and brings pizza. mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com

Jim Celania is happy to be alive, and he thinks you should be too.

On the 11th anniversary of his release from Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center where he’d been treated for lung cancer, Celania returned with two pizzas.

He took one to the fifth-floor nursing station outside his old room, 597, and the other to the room’s resident, Nick Krizmanich, 33.

Celania, who shares the morning airwaves on WFNZ-AM (“Fan” 610) with Chris McClain, Colin Hoggard and Travis Hancock, is hoping to start a movement in which people who have been confined to hospital beds for a time go back on the anniversary of their release bringing pizzas – and a word of encouragement – to the current residents.

“I call it ‘Go Back,’” says Celania, who turned 67 last week. “I never thought I’d go back to that room. I want other people to do it.”

In 2005, while pounding a 4x4 post into his back yard for a bluebird house, his doctor called. A scan had revealed a “bogie” on his lung. Celania said he smoked but not heavily.

A few days later, a surgeon removed the mid lobe of his right lung. Celania had lost his father Joe, also a sportscaster, to lung cancer in 1993.

Celania spent 10 days recovering in room 597. Gary Williams, his then-radio partner who is now on the Golf Channel, would bring him New York-style pizza from Hawthorne’s. That’s where Celania got last Wednesday’s pies.

“This place saved my life in 2005,” he told Krizmanich, who was a tire changer on Kyle Larson’s NASCAR pit crew before he fell ill.

“People here have been absolutely awesome,” Krizmanich told him.

Krizmanich was born with a heart-valve defect and it had begun failing. He had it replaced and had been in the room for 15 days when Celania walked in.

Already, life is better for Krizmanich, who has since been released. He says with his new valve, he’s noticed colors are brighter and he’s got more energy.

Krizmanich’s nurses said it was OK for him to have pizza. One slice.

Celania understood how it works – he fell from 153 pounds to 129 during his 10-day stay.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007, @WashburnChObs

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