The Buraschi Serpa family feels it was blessed by an angel four years ago.
That angel, their second son Alessio, requires his parents’ full attention.
In her 36th week of pregnancy, his mother, Carla Serpa, had complications that resulted in Alessio being born a quadriplegic. He also has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, among other complications. The boy cannot see, cannot talk and has to be fed through a gastric tube.
“The boy suffers every day, be it from convulsions, bleeding or any other reason,” says Serpa. “And since he cannot tell us if something is hurting him or if he is choking, we have to constantly be alert in case something happens.”
Alessio, 4, will be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He depends on his mother, his father José Carlos Buraschi and his 6-year-old brother Tiago. The master bedroom resembles a hospital room — with an adjustable bed, an oxygen machine and posters with first-aid instructions.
José Buraschi is the only one who brings in an income as Serpa is Alessio’s caretaker. Also, the family is expecting another child in February.
“I have trained in the medical field to be able to help my son at any moment,” said Serpa, who studied business in Peru but is studying at Miami Dade College to be a nurse. “I want to know what happened with Alessio, why the medical diagnosis was bad. I want to understand the recommendations they give me and why. I also want to be of service to other families in my work because I know what it is to have someone suffering.”
Alessio now weighs more than 40 pounds. It is difficult to carry him to the bathroom, to move his wheelchair around the house and to lift it into the car for weekly doctor’s visits. The family needs the doors remodeled to adapt to the wheelchair and have access ramps installed at the home’s entrances. They also would like an electrical system to raise and lower the wheelchair for their second-hand 2004 Toyota Siena minivan.
Alessio was nominated for The Miami Herald’s Wish Book by Evelyn Alvarez, director of regional operations for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, a state organization that assists people with development limitations.
“We have a waiting list of 21,000 people with needs and nearly 3,500 persons with requirements similar to Alessio’s,” Alvarez said. “This is why our agency turns to the cooperation of the community and other organizations to find additional help for these families.”
“We want to offer a better quality of life to our son,” said José Buraschi, who works in a cruise company and devotes his free time and vacations to accompany Alessio to his therapy. “We wish in the future to see him running around with his little brother and doing things as a normal child, but we know it will never be like that, so we try to accommodate him the best we can.”
Alessio still finds a way, with his bright dark eyes, to get a smile from his parents and his little brother. When he hears music, he moves his body and opens and closes his eyes and mouth as if he wanted to dance, applaud or sing.
“He is stimulated by touch and massages. He loves music and is a happy child,” Serpa said.
Alessio’s parents said that his son has taught them many life lessons.
“He has given me back patience and hope,” said José Buraschi. “You see him sitting there, but my son is a fighter and a champion. He has made it through many challenges.”
“He has made me stronger and more courageous. I have no time to give up because I have to be there for my son and fight for him,” Serpa said. “He is a true angel. For us the most beautiful thing of our day is when our son gives us a smile.”