Fabio creates work of art for Pepin Heart Institute, and Tom Pepin philanthropist behind it

BY STACIE SCHAIBLE - WFLA NEWS CHANNEL 8

(WFLA) - Fabio Dal Boni is a gifted local artist. At 59, he suddenly suffered a massive heart attack while playing tennis with his wife. He was rushed to the Pepin Heart Institute at Florida Hospital in Tampa, but was unresponsive. He remembers, vividly, being overcome by a feeling of peace. "The light was incredible. White and bright," he said. Doctors were able to revive Dal Boni after he was technically dead for several minutes, a time lapse far too long for most to survive. He suffered what is known as a widow maker heart attack. A main artery in his heart was 100 percent blocked. "The doctor said, 'you're back. You have an extra life.' Enjoy this extra life," said Dal Boni. That was two and a half years ago and Dal Boni knew he had to show his gratitude in a way only he could. He created a very special work of art for the Pepin Heart Institute and the philanthropist behind it, Tom Pepin.

The two men met for the first time as Dal Boni presented Pepin with his creation. At first glance, the artwork is clearly in the shape of a heart but it goes much deeper than that. Dal Boni read about a cave in Navajo territory in Arizona, where for only a moment each day, sunlight hits the cave ceiling and forms the shape of a heart. Dal Boni traveled there and captured the image on his cell phone that he then turned into an amazing work of art. Tom Pepin is deeply touched by Dal Boni's gift. He says the Pepin Heart Institute was built in honor of his father, Art Pepin, who was a heart transplant recipient. "Fighting heart disease is one of the greatest gifts we can give our community because there is a tsunami of cardiovascular disease that has hit our state and our nation," Pepin said.  The Pepin Heart Institute is now 20 years old and has helped more than 100,000 patients in that time. "We have a philosophy that we treat the entire family, not just the patient. Over and over again I hear these stories and that does my heart well," said Pepin. As for Dal Boni, he is living his best life and appreciating the second chance at life he's been given.