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Dad gets touching tattoo after son's death: 'I will hold his hand forever'

After his seven-year-old died unexpectedly, this New York dad planned a touching tribute tattoo to memorialize his son.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

When Anthony DeNicola's son, Joseph, was an infant, he was diagnosed with severe food allergies.

Joseph's reaction to foods like milk and hazelnuts was so severe, that exposure would cause an anaphylactic reaction — a potentially life-threatening allergic response that can cause the body to go into shock.

Anthony DeNicola with his sons, Anthony and Joseph.Anthony DeNicola

On October 31, 2014, DeNicola's worst fear came true. At a Halloween party, Joseph, then 7, had an allergic reaction to milk that would end his life just 6 days later.

"At the party, they had pizza laid out," DeNicola told TODAY Parents in an email. "Joseph had his own food, but just the smell of the pizza triggered his allergies and asthma."

One of the last photos DeNicola took of his son, Joseph.Anthony DeNicola

DeNicola administered an EpiPen — an automatic injection of epinephrine — to his son and rushed him to the hospital. After arriving at the hospital, Joseph's body went into cardiac arrest, and a few days later, the doctors pronounced him brain dead.

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DeNicola, who is a divorced father to Joseph and an older son, Anthony, 19, says he prayed for a miracle for his son. Sadly, all testing showed that Joseph would not recover, and DeNicola made the decision to donate his son's organs.

Anthony and Joseph DeNicola.Anthony DeNicola

"Joseph saved four people I know of, and fifty I don't," said the Staten Island, New York, dad. "After that, I wanted to help spread awareness, so we started Joseph's Helping Hand to help fight food allergies and spread awareness about organ donation."

But the non-profit organization started in his son's name isn't the only way DeNicola is memorializing his child.

This photo of DeNicola holding hands with his son was later turned into the design for his tribute tattoo.Anthony DeNicola

"I wanted to get a tattoo — a memory piece — but I didn't know what," said DeNicola. "In the ambulance with Joseph, I held his hand from the ICU all the way to surgery. Just before he went in, I took a picture of me holding his hand and as I was looking at that picture one day, I had an idea."

DeNicola's tattoo tribute to his son, Joseph.Anthony DeNicola

DeNicola took the photo to a tattoo artist and asked for help. The result is a tribute tattoo that shows father and son, hand-in-hand.

"He transformed the picture into a reality," said DeNicola. "I will hold my son's hand forever."