E.J. Giacomini knows firsthand that nobody chooses the cards they’re dealt. He gained this knowledge back in 2010 when he began experiencing some serious health issues during his sophomore year at Niagara. When he started having extreme migraines and vision issues, he went back home to Albany to see his doctor and was told his symptoms were similar to those associated with having a brain tumor.
“Naturally, as anyone would, I freaked out. My grades started to suffer because my mind was everywhere but class. So I withdrew before I failed out,” said Giacomini, an Albany native.
After leaving Niagara, Giacomini underwent brain scans, a spinal tap and injections into his skull to relieve the pressure around his brain. “Luckily, there was no brain tumor, so I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, which is basically all the symptoms of a brain tumor, without the actual tumor.”
The Intracranial Hypertension Research Foundation characterizes IH is the general term for the neurological disorders in which cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pressure within the skull is too high. The primary symptoms associated with the disorder are headaches and loss of vision.
While Giacomini was under an immense amount of pressure and stress, he decided to be proactive before returning to NU. “I went to a broadcasting school in Albany for radio, and I graduated from the program in May of 2010. After that, I took some classes in September of that year at a community college in my area while trying to figure out what I wanted to do next,” said Giacomini.
One day that October, there was a news-talk host broadcasting his morning show from the college. “My dad had listened to this host, Paul Vandenburgh, for years. Besides doing the morning show, he was also the president of the station (WGDJ-AM). I had just left one of my classes and my dad called my cell. He told me, ‘Paul was there. Go talk to him.’ So I quickly printed out my resume from my flash drive and found where he was doing his show. I waited for him to go to break and then I talked to him. I told him who I was and all that, and he then hired me to work for the station.”
Coincidentally – or maybe not – the day Giacomini was hired for his new position was also the one year anniversary of the death of the closest person to him. In Giacomini’s eyes, this was an illustration of his loved one looking out for him from above.
“One of the most important people in my life died. I called her ‘Mim.’ When my parents went back to work after I was born, she took care of me every day,” Giacomini said. “She had cancer and the chemo poisoned her blood. I believe the instance of me getting hired that day was another instance of her watching over me the she always did – like I was her own child.”
Giacomini started working the next night, screening phone calls. Two months later, he was given more responsibilities and, four months after that, he took over as host for one of the station’s shows. He has now been there for more than two years and currently holds the title as board-op/producer.
Now back at Niagara University, Giacomini still works for the station, and has various jobs and experience in radio. “I now work there while I’m home on break. As board-op/producer, I sit across from the main host. I control the computer, the mixing board, the microphones, the phone calls, tell the host when to take a break, edit the audio that goes out over the air, etc. I also have the job of cutting off and dumping a caller who starts to swear, and pretty much acts like an idiot,” joked Giacomini.
Giacomini, now a 23-year-old junior, is glad he is back at Niagara. After graduation, the communication studies major believes that being in radio is one of his possible career choices. He has additional experience as the former sports director for WNIA, Niagara’s on-campus station.
“Doing radio is an option. I’m not going to lie, though; sometimes it can be draining on you, both mentally and emotionally. Having to wake up at 4 a.m. on weekdays to go in for the morning show isn’t fun sometimes, especially during the winter. But it’s very rewarding at the same time, especially all the experiences I’ve had. Ideally, I’d like to be a sports writer and a sports-talk show host, which is becoming more common,” he said.
It is also apparent that radio and broadcast helped Giacomini get through his health problems and loss of a loved one. “Radio and broadcasting gave me a distraction and a release from all the miserable things I was going through. It allowed me to release the frustration I was feeling in a positive way. I’m a better person because of the experiences I have had over the past few years.”
Article and photo by Chelsea Pelsone, a senior communication studies major at NU.