Today is Rafael's birthday. He is 13.
When first diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy the docs gave him 10 years to live. He's blown past their prognostications. It has not been easy.
Over the weekend Rafael was inducted into a private Christian wrestling federation, Warriors 4 Christ Wrestling, and they are already planning his first match. When he gets out of Children's Methodist he'll be facing down inter-continental champion Joey Nitro.
The tween who has no use of his legs and the lung capacity of a bird believes he can take the broad-chested Nitro.
“You may have to use the eye gouge,” I suggest.
“Yeah, I may have to use some dirty moves,” his bright voice responds, enthusiasm welling over.
I've been honored to become a friend of this remarkable family. A family with faults, sure. A family brave enough to put their story out there to be picked apart by reams of anonymous posters. A family now experiencing incredible strain as they fight to get the home medical care that Rafael requires while keeping their family together.
Since filing my story about Rafael, the tables have definitely turned. Methodist Children's has brought in Child Protective Services and is working overtime to limit communication between myself and the Garcias. On my last visit to their hospital room, I was escorted out of the hospital by security. Next time they will call the San Antonio Police Department, they say.
So I am forced to send my birthday salutations via blog from my downtown office.
Hang in there bud! I'm looking forward to the day I'll be shooting video of you knocking down these tights-wearing pretenders in the ring.
I'm convinced you can triumph â?? even without dirty tricks. It's your heart, Ralphie boy, that is your secret weapon. Your heart that never says die.
Wishing you a speedy return home and all the safety, rest, and play that all children deserve.