Familiar face missing from tournament

Published March 24, 2006

TAMPA - Bertha Saladino, famous for the thousands of free meals she serves every year during the Saladino Tournament, was hospitalized Thursday afternoon with blood clots in her right leg.

Thursday evening, talking by phone from her bed at St. Joseph's Hospital, Saladino said she was "depressed that I can't be at the tournament," but feeling good the problem was caught as soon as it was.

In the middle of serving meals Wednesday, she mentioned her leg was hurting.

It just so happened the Saladino's personal physician, Jose Berrios, had stopped by the tournament for a visit. Berrios took one look at Bertha's swollen leg and said she needed to go to the hospital.

Saladino, who said she fights pain all the time with osteoporosis, told Berrios she would have to wait until the tournament was over.

But Thursday afternoon, Berrios insisted and she went in for tests that confirmed the blood clots. She was placed on a blood thinner and will have more tests and treatments through the weekend.

"But the food will keep getting served to the end of today's final," said Saladino, who frequently has called in instructions to her helpers at the trailer, also known as "Bertha's Kitchen."