As a health-care executive, Frank Ingari knows more than most people about what nurses do. His Conshohocken-based company, Tandigm Health, supports independent medical practices throughout the Philadelphia area. That includes a lot of nurses.
In the early times of COVID-19, the CEO was moved by the dedication of those frontline workers and was also aghast that so many of them were working without protective gear while they tended to sick people.
“Those images we saw in the first few weeks — nurses without PPE, taking the risks they were taking and, frankly, continuing to save other people, risking not only themselves, but the stress of having kids at home,” Ingari said, "it just broke my heart. I never really had this experience before, but I felt I just had to write something down, express it.”
So Ingari 70, turned to the medium closest to his heart: music.
Ingari was a musician long before he joined the corporate world. So he wrote and recorded a song dedicated to nurses. It’s called “My Hero Is A Nurse" and it begins like this:
Handing you a brand new baby
Or fighting this killer curse
She puts you first
Racked by fever
Laid up with broken bones
She will leave her home
So you are not alone...
“I mostly wrote it so the nurses I knew would hear it,” Ingari said.
The song is meant not just to praise nurses — all of them, not just the female ones in the lyrics — but to help them: Ingari has posted it on PlayItForward.com, the nonprofit that raises money for causes through original music. In just two months, “My Hero Is A Nurse” has received over $19,000 in donations for the American Nurses Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund, which provides direct economic support and mental health services to nurses.
The amount of money the song has raised is “a drop in the bucket” compared to the great needs out there, Ingari said. Still, he’s hoping it will help remind listeners of the sacrifices nurses make and the risks they take to help others.
“It’s one person’s little thing,” said Ingari of his song and its noble mission. “It’s the least I could do.”
And about the song: If you’re expecting a yearning, lovely ballad, guess again. Think funk.
“I was a full-time touring pro with an R&B band way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, in the ’70s,” Ingari said. “I didn’t come to corporate life until I was 30 years old. I made my living playing music.”
Back in the height of the disco era, Ingari was a guitarist for Lavarez, an in-demand band that played gigs in Los Angeles clubs six nights a week. “It was awesome," he said, adding that the band toured internationally. His heroes back then were artists like Earth, Wind and Fire; the Average White Band; Marvin Gaye; and Donny Hathaway.
Alas, even with the band’s success, Ingari didn’t see himself having the career of his idols.
“It’s like a kid playing ball in college and realizing you’re never going to be in the NFL,” he said. “So I turned my attention to the business world.”
After about 20 years in the field of technology, he was recruited into health care, which became his new passion. (Although he still rocks out with his current band, Tempting Fate, at local bars and parties near his Rhode Island home.)
Recording “My Hero Is A Nurse” was a labor of love, COVID-19-style.
A socially distanced production, Ingari recorded the song in his home studio. The other artists — friends who donated their talents — did their parts in their own spaces: lead vocalist Aaron Halford, backing vocalist Nicole Jones, and drummer James Murphy. Ingari handled bass, guitar, and keys.
“We sent files to each other over the internet,” he said.
His friend Carl Nappa, a Grammy-nominated engineer and producer, put it all together.
Ingari’s regard for nurses, developed through 20 years in health care, comes through loud and clear in his song.
I am just a guy wondering why
That I may live
She may die
And that is why
My hero, my hero
Is a nurse
“I got an appreciation of what nurses do — how important they area and how they symbolize so much of what is inspiring about the health-care industry,” he said. “It’s a tradition of service, a kind of profound humility. Nurses don’t seek the spotlight, but they carry a lot of the load.”
“We don’t value service the way that we should in our country,” Ingari said. “It’s just a sign of what needs to change in society. When [the pandemic] happened, we somehow thought it was OK to not have masks and gowns and gloves for people. We let the public health infrastructure erode.”
If any good comes from the pandemic, he said, it might be this: “The country got a better appreciation of what it means to be on the frontline.”
His song is a call to give those stalwart front-liners the backing they deserve.
“When I wrote this thing, the pandemic was still in the early bloom,” Ingari said. “Now we’re going into flu season. This isn’t behind us. These nurses are still doing what this song is about. They need our support."