Five Years to Live, Frank Zaccari

Five Years to Live

It is the phone call every person lives in fear of receiving. There has been an accident and your loved one is paralyzed. A spinal cord injury is the single most devastating and life altering event. Based on a true story, Michael and Donna were young, successful, in love and planning their life together. That life was radically changed by a tragic car accident. Now a wheelchair user as a quadriplegic, with limited movement, constant infections and multiple surgeries, doctors projected Michael’s best case life expectancy to be five years. See how this young man battles through his injury and spends his five years making a lasting impact on hundreds of people. It will make you realize what can be accomplished when a person does not let circumstances dictate their life.


Frank Zaccari

Frank ZaccariFrank Zaccari received his bachelor’s in finance from California State University at Sacramento after serving as a military medic in the United States Air Force. He spent more than two decades in the technology industry, holding various positions from account representative to CEO. He also spent time specializing in turn-around management of companies under $100 million. Zaccari left the industry to provide primary care of his children, purchasing a small business that was more accommodating to his family. 

He presently owns an insurance agency in Sacramento, where he currently resides. “Five Years to Live” is not his only book for sale. He has also written, “When the Wife Cheats, ” “From the Ashes: The Rise of the University of Washington Volleyball Program,” and “Inside the Spaghetti Bowl.”

Get to know Frank Zaccari

Q: Could you please tell us a little about your book?

A: This book is everyone’s worst nightmare because we are just one phone call away from living this nightmare. It is the phone call everyone prays they never receive. There has been an accident and your loved one is paralyzed. A spinal cord injury is the single most devastating and life altering event.  Based on a true story, Michael and Donna were young, successful, in love and planning their life together.  That life was radically changed by a tragic car accident. Now a wheelchair user as a quadriplegic, with limited movement, constant infections and multiple surgeries, doctors projected Michael’s best case life expectancy to be five years. See how this young couple battles through his injury and spends his five years making a lasting impact on hundreds of people. It will make you realize what can be accomplished when a person does not let circumstances dictate their life.

Q: Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book?

A: This book is very personal to me and my family. My youngest brother Steve was paralyzed in car accident when he was 24 years old. This is an experience I hope and pray no other family endures. Shortly after the accident, my mother gave Steve a cassette recorder and told him to record his thoughts and emotions. Steve’s goal was to write a book from the patient’s perspective. He did record several hours of thoughts, but could never bring himself to write the book. He said reliving those terrible days would be too painful.

Q: Who or what is the inspiration behind this book?

A: A mother whose son suffered a serious spinal cord injury told me: “This story needs to be told. This tragedy can happen to everyone without warning. It needs to express what a spinal cord injury does to the life of not only the person involved, but to their entire family as well. For those strong enough to face this overwhelming obstacle, it is a journey of love, endurance, and absolute triumph of the spirit. It will bring so much hope to so many people that find themselves in a nightmare from which they cannot awake. You will speak for all of us.”


After my going through this ordeal with my brother and my family, then hearing the heart wrenching story from this mother, I had to write Five Years to Live.


Q: Who is your biggest supporter?

A: I am very fortunate to have several wonderful supporters which include my daughters Stephanie and Sara, my brothers Anthony and Steve, my sisters Mary Anne and Annette and my Dad. I also receive support from my Mother and sister Christine in heaven.

Q: Your biggest critic?

A: I am my biggest critic, although my family doesn’t hesitate to keep me humble.

Q: Since your first book three years ago, have you learned or improved on any skills?

A: Wow this is a great question. Well four years ago I became a single custodial parent of two teenage daughters. After a year of counseling and completely restructuring our lives, I discovered there are things I cannot fix or control. To help me cope, I started writing books based on true stories that dealt with life altering events. My books have dealt with infidelity and divorce (When the Wife Cheats); with the death of a parent (Inside the Spaghetti Bowl), and a catastrophic injury to a loved one (Five Years to Live).

I learned that these events can and often will happen to everyone. They will test you in every way imaginable. You will feel you are an emotional train wreck. There will be moments when you believe you cannot survive and don’t want to even try. I want to show my readers that while you may not be able to fix or change the situation there is reason for hope. You will survive and end up in a better place. It will be the hardest thing you will ever do, but you are not alone. You will emerge as a better person and in a better place.

The first book was about infidelity and divorce. Being a man raising teenage daughters, the first thing I had to learn was to listen to my daughters and to validate their feelings. This is particularly difficult for a man since we are taught to fix problems. I had to learn and accept there are some things that cannot be fixed. I could not fix my mother’s heart or the deep hurt my daughters experienced from the divorce or prevent the accident that paralyzed my brother. Once I realized that it is OK that I can’t fix everything, I became much more relaxed and as my daughters tell me – much more pleasant and happy. 

Q: Do you have any rituals you follow when finishing a piece of work?

A: I have only been a writer for three years, so I really don’t have many rituals.  As a single custodial parent of two teenage daughters, I had to make time for them. They are and will always be my first priority.  I also own a business which takes up a great deal of my time and energy. I usually write between the hours of 1:00 and 4:00 in the morning when my daughters are asleep. I transformed one of the bedrooms at my house into a make shift office. It is a very Spartan like environment. I have a desk with a PC, a hanging desk lap, a file box with notes and research and several pictures of my two daughters.  I have the basic tools that I need and pictures of the two most important people in my life.


Q: Who has influenced you throughout your career as a writer?

A: I love authors who tell great stories. I have read every Sidney Sheldon book.  He was an amazing story teller. I enjoy Jeffrey Archer’s ability to create intrigue and the ability that Mitch Albom, Nicholas Sparks and Tim Russert have to touch the reader’s heart.


Q: What is the most important thing in your life right now?

A: Without question, the single most important thing in my life is helping my daughters get through college (one has graduated) and doing whatever I can to help them live a happy and prosperous life.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: I am just starting a project aimed at men and women over the age of 50 who suddenly find themselves single. At the moment it is called “Now What?”  The idea is to write about the various stages of dating that people who, after 20 plus years of marriage, find themselves single again. I have heard some heart breaking and well as some very funny stories as men and women over 50 try to pick up the pieces and move forward. The goal is to move from the shock and grief toward a new and better life. 

Q: Do you have any advice for writers or readers?

A: Well to readers, I hope everyone buys and enjoys my books since my daughters would like me to buy a villa in Amalfi Coast of Italy…hahaha. To answer your question my advice is to write about things you know, things that are close to your heart, things that make you laugh and cry, things that you are passionate about.

Q: Is there an author that inspired you to write?

A: I really love Tim Russert’s book Wisdom of our Fathers because it is so family focused. I love to hear stories about family traditions, culture and secrets. I hope readers see the strong family connection in my books.


Q: What are some of your long term goals?

A: I hope people enjoy my work to the point where I can sell my business and just write books full time. The writing experience has become an escape from the daily grind of owning a business and the day-to-day aggregations of life.

Q: What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as an author?

A: I am shocked that I actually wrote a book.  Like most people I often said, “I should write a book about this”, but never really believed I would find the inspiration, or take the time and effort to actual write a book. Once I started to write When the Wife Cheats (my first book) I was hooked. Hopefully, people will enjoy my books and I can become a full time author.


Q: What do you feel is your biggest strength and weakness?

A: I love to tell a story so developing a story line is fairly easy. Weeding through what is and is not relevant for the story is a little more difficult, but I completely despise the constant re-reading and proof reading. It seems I see what I wanted to say, not necessarily what is actually written on the page.


Q: What do you feel sets Five Years to Live apart from others in the same genre?

A: Most books about catastrophic injuries are very clinical. They discuss insurance, finding good home care, and how to cope with the situation. They tend to be very sad and depressing. This is not a self help book. This book is about the celebration of life, love and family. It is putting family first and living your life with love, faith and integrity.

Q: You know the scenario – you’re stuck on an island.  What book would you bring with you and why?

A: If I am absolutely limited to one book, it would be Tim Russert’s book Wisdom of our Fathers. As I mentioned earlier it is so family focused. I love to hear stories about family traditions, culture and secrets. If I could sneak in another book it would be anything by Sydney Sheldon.

Q: If you could go back and change one day, what would it be?

A: Wow, this is another good question. I would go back to August 11, 1985. That was the day my brother Steve was paralyzed in a car accident. If I could I would change that one event in my life.

Q: Are you a different person now than you were 5 years ago?  In what way/s?

A: Some friends recently told me they could not get over how much I have changed. I was very Type A former high tech executive who was always on the run, always traveling, always pushing and striving for success. Now I am told, I much more relaxed, calm and happy with my life.

Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned from life so far?

A: I have two important life lessons. The first is to love and cherish your family because in the end all you have is family. The second is the motto on my family crest which reads: Life with Integrity. It is doing the right thing only because it is the right thing to do. No exceptions or excuses.

Q: Is there anything you regret doing/not doing?

A: I truly believe that the only regret(s) I have are the opportunities I did not take. I didn’t stop and smell the roses during my 25 year high tech career. That will never happen again.

Q: What is your favorite past-time?

A: I am a major fan and supporter of the University of Washington Women’s Volleyball program. I became involved with this program while living in Seattle and found those young student-athletes got into my heart. They inspired my 2nd book – From the Ashes – The Rise of the University of Washington Volleyball Program.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

A: Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience with your readers. I hope they enjoy Five Years to Live.

You can visit my website at

You can follow me on twitter at @FZaccari



After the phone call, Michael loaded up his 1982 Ford Mustang, kissed Donna good-bye, and promised to call when he arrived in Delaware. It was a cool night for August, and it had started to rain as Michael headed toward the New Jersey Turnpike. He was thinking about his time with Donna and how great things would be when they moved to Williamsville. His traveling would be reduced, and he would have more time with Donna. That thought made him smile. I have to start pricing engagement rings, he thought.


 As he entered the blind cloverleaf leading to the turnpike, he saw a New Jersey Highway Department truck that was stopped and sticking out into the road. “Well this sucks,” he said. “A blind cloverleaf and a parked Highway Department truck making it more difficult to see.” As Michael pulled around the truck, he felt a large jolt. His mind began racing. What the hell just happened? He tried to focus his attention on something, but everything was blurry. All he could hear was Huey Lewis’ song “The Power of Love” coming from the radio. The car was spinning out of control, and the only words he was able to utter were, “Oh God, help me!” The car bounced down the turnpike, going endover-end, and settled on its roof but was still moving. He was starting to think clearer and said, “Please end up on the wheels so I can get out easier.” The car finally stopped but was still on its roof. There was broken glass everywhere. The tiny pieces reflected like jewels. The sun visor had come undone and was hanging in his vision. He could see the toll ticket and his registration card that were clipped to the visor. He tried to turn off the ignition, but he couldn’t move because of the excruciating pain in his arms. He thought, I must have broken my arms. Don’t move or I could cause more damage. He was being held in his seat by the seat belt with his head pressed against the ceiling. Again he tried to move and undo the seat belt, but he still couldn’t move. His mind started racing again, What if the car blows up? I don’t want to die like this. How will they know it’s me? He couldn’t smell any gas, and this calmed him. These few seconds seemed like an eternity.

Suddenly a hand appeared in the window and shut of the ignition. A man’s voice came out of the darkness and asked him if he was alone. “Yes,” Michael answered. He could barely see a stream of tail lights going by as if they were in a funeral procession.

 The voice asked, “What’s your name?”

 “My name is Michael Battaglia.”

 “There’s no gas leak so you’re safe. The ambulance is on its way.”

 Relieved that the car wouldn’t blow up, Michael asked, “Who are you and what happened?”

 “I work for the Turnpike Authority, and you hit a disabled car, but it wasn’t your fault. He didn’t have any lights on. His car had a flat and wasn’t completely off the road. You collided with the left back tail light. That’s why your car bounced instead of folding up like an accordion.”

 Did anyone get hurt?”

 “No.” The masculine voice from the darkness said with a curious inflection. “No one was in the car.” In a passing thought, he speculated on what kind of man in an accident this horrendous stops to ask about other people. “What about you? Do you have any pain?”

 “Yes, my arms hurt like hell, and I can’t move them.”

 “Don’t try to move anything until the paramedics get here. Try to relax.”

Second Excerpt:


With terror in his voice, he said, “I’m not going to walk again, am I?”


 “We don’t really know yet, like I said…”

 Michael angrily cut her off “Answer the god-damn question. I’m not going to walk again am I?

 “I don’t know Michael.” Tears began to will up in his eyes, and he looked at her, begging for an answer.

 After she wiped the tear from her eyes she said “The odds are not in your favor.”

My Review

I thought the author did an outstanding job with the story. The story was an emotional one, and one that brings the reader into the lives of the characters so deeply, that the emotions transfer from the pages of the book to the reader. You laugh, you cry, you get frustrated, you celebrate. 

The characters in the book were very well developed, so much so, that as you read the story, you can picture the characters in your head. You become part of their lives and part of their conversations. 

Five years to Live gives the reader insight into the daily lives of a spinal injury victim, what it takes to achieve even the most minor of daily activities. The book also makes you wonder how some are so blessed with an inspiring disposition and others seem to be so lost. I have to repeat myself when I say the author did an outstanding job in the development of Michael’s character. He got inside of his character’s head and we had a front row seat to the happiness, the heartache, the tragedy, the setbacks, and the triumphs that was Michael’s.  It was amazing to read how one person took their diagnosis of five years to live and turned it around to live more than twenty-five years full of accomplishments.

Frank Zaccari also did a wonderful job showing the family member’s emotions and coping abilities. This was a family that stood together and did what was needed for each person of their family.

While the storyline is exceptional, there were things about the book that I did not like. I personally do not like the Point of View shift in which the writer chose to write the book. I find this particular style of writing confusing, and feel that it detracts from the story. I also felt parts of the book were too simplistic, as though the writing level had taken drop to an elementary reading level. It was a distraction for me and I felt it took a five star book and dropped it down to a four star.

That being said (and I’m sure there will be controversy there) I think it is a book worth reading, especially if you have a spinal cord injured person in your family, or friend circle. The book is definitely an eye-opener.


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