Today we tell you a story that involves Raffaele, his mother Cristina and their great strength, which help them every day to face their difficult situation.
Everything began 3 years ago: Raffaele was 11, he had just finished primary school and he was in Ostia with his family playing in the pool. Raffaele was an expert and awarded swimmer and Cristina was confident with him swimming by himself for some time.
Unfortunately while he was alone something really unpredictable happened. In a short amount of time Raffaele had 3 heart attacks which made him drown. Raffaele had a congenital heart defect, but no on in his family could know.
”Everything happened in an instant, the world collapsed around us”.
Raffaele was in a coma for 2 months when his mum hope began to falter. Doctors were sure there was no way Raffaele could recover but Cristina decided she wouldn’t give up, she wanted to try every possible treatment in order to save her kid. So she reached out to a doctor in San Diego (USA) who treated cases similar to her son’s.
The doctor didn’t want to create false hopes, but after he studied Raffaele’s medical records, he suggested Cristina to try with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Cristina planned the trip: 14 hours flight followed by a 2 hours car ride, a very difficult journey for Raffaele who had been living in a hospital bed for months.
After the treatment Raffaele improved. The doctors recommend that Raffaele continue the therapy back in Italy and associate it with other rehabilitation therapies.
Raffaele is stuck between two dimensions, trapped in a world different from the one we live in: he can’t communicate by means of words or gestures but sometimes he can hear or understand something and he tries to reply through emotions, using alternative energy levels.
Once back from the States Cristina realized she could have done a much shorter travel: she found out about the Hyperbaric Centre of Ravenna and she met doctor Pasquale Longobardi, who was ready to help Cristina and Raffaele through this difficult rehabilitation path.
Dr. Longobardi developed a treatment for Raffi which is spread over three intensive weeks to be repeated three times a year. In this way they can come from Rome and settle down for short periods during which Raffaele carry on with the sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and follow many other activities and therapies that aim to help him improve: acupuncture, aromatherapy, pet therapy, physiotherapy in the pool, colour therapy, crystal therapy.
“I am aware of my son’s situation but I will try everything to enable him to have the best life possible, I am not hoping for a miracle.”
To follow the treatment defined by Dr. Longobardi and to give hope to Raffi, Cristina decides to create a real team that support Raffi both in Rome and during his trips for treatment in Ravenna.
“We are a group that believes in teamwork, there is synergy, hope and a desire to break down the barriers that separate us from the dimension in which Raffaele is now. We are a team of professionals and everybody loves my son and firmly believes in the importance of doing everything possible to help him. They all put their hear in the work they do. There are three nurses form ASL Roma who take turns to assist Raffaele mainly with issue related to the tracheotomy, three therapists, two speech therapists, two paediatricians, an intensives physician and an audiologist. “
The group works with Raffaele day after day, Cristina coordinates the work of organizing semi-annual briefing to share common goals, to discuss the paths, to decide what to change or improve. “To pull Raffaele out of this parallel reality we must pull the rope all together”. Raffi himself has realized that it is a team game and he follows all the people who help him and support him trying to do his best.
“For the whole family it was a big shock: it was hard to process what happened but now that some years have passed I the great affection that accompanies and supports us.”
Before the accident Raffi was a big fan of Harry Potter, the bespectacled boy wizard was for him a true idol and he dreamed of doing spells, wearing a black cloak and waving a wooden stick. So Cristina asked her friend to give him a great gift: a mural on an entire wall of Raffi’s room. In the corner there are also the initials of Raffaele and his cousins who are always very affectionate.
Just by mixing these initial Cristina found two important words “Verdad” (Truth) and “Almas” (soul). Her father, is a native Spanish speaker, and for her these two words mean a lot and help her in dealing with this great challenge.
“In Harry Potter there is a bridge linking the magic and the real world. The team and I are kind of crossing a bridge with our work, and we are trying to make Raffaele crossing that bridge too”
Cristina works full time in a bank, and she has to make lot of sacrifices to coordinate all this work and to support all the expenses. When we asked what pushes her not to give up, she responds:
“I do it because I am alive. I want to do be fully alive, not a living-dead, and for this reason I want to do everything for him. Raffi is giving it all and I’m with him. A Buddhist motto says “turn poison into medicine” and so this is what I’m trying to do every day. “
This is a story of strength, love and courage. Good luck to Raffi and Cristina, two people from whom we must learn every day and that we value so much. We are happy to help and we hope with all our hearts that Raffi keep progressing. See you in a few months!