Meet Joe Mantegna

You may know Actor and La Rabida Alumnus, Joe Mantegna from his most recent role as Agent David Rossi in the CBS hit drama Criminal Minds, or from his role in David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross.  And you can hardly miss his distinctive voice as Fat Tony the gangster in The Simpsons.

But, what you may not know is that Joe is a former La Rabida patient.  Hear from Joe by reading his personal interview:

Joe, what's your history with La Rabida?
I was admitted to La Rabida when I was eight years old for Rheumatic Fever. I spent five months as an inpatient and then had outpatient visits that ended when I turned 21. Boy, turning 21 was like a rite of passage – finally, no more sulphur pills!

What is it that you remember most about your La Rabida experience?
There are so many good memories! One thing that stands out is movie night. A very nice man we called Uncle Swedie would come in and show us movies. "Uncle Roland" and his wife visited us often and gave us gifts. And then there were the teachers that helped us keep up with our schoolwork. They would read one chapter of a book at a time then move to the next kid's room. I read fairly well for my age and took it upon myself to read to the kids on my floor. This may have been the first inkling that I was destined to become an actor. And it got me my first T.V. appearance! Richard Finnegan, an editor for the local Chicago paper at that time, saw me reading aloud and sat in.' I was selected to appear on a "This is Your Life"  episode honoring him.

Is this how your acting career got started?
I think the real start of my acting career was when I got involved in two of La Rabida’s hospital productions. In the first one I played a dog, and in the second I was a pixie. These were the first two plays I’d ever done. This is how my career as an actor got started.

Other than exposing you to acting, how has La Rabida impacted your life?
I have a life, thanks to the treatment I received at La Rabida.

And if La Rabida hadn't been there, I may have spent five months in a regular hospital. That would have been an entirely different experience that could have been emotionally damaging. There's a reason we have children's hospitals! You like to think that every kid grows up hunky-dory, that everything is great. But, for a lot of kids it’s not that way. I was lucky. If La Rabida's goal was to make an eight-year-old's experience with a traumatic illness as pleasurable as possible, it succeeded.

Your story is inspiring! Is there anything else you'd like to add, Joe?
Yes. I believe that people everywhere should be able to get the best possible health care available, regardless of ability to pay. The fact that La Rabida has always provided care for children in need despite their socioeconomic status says it all.

I encourage everyone who has an association with La Rabida to come forward, share their stories and do their part to assist La Rabida in helping children meet the challenges of their medical conditions. If we all work together, we can raise awareness of La Rabida and the important role it plays in shaping children’s lives through a positive hospital experience.

If you are a former La Rabida patient from the 1940s (+), and want to share your story or attend a patient alumni event, email galvarez@larabida.org.