Terminally ill young man wants to grant the ultimate Mother’s Day wish
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Mario Toranzo is not your average 20-year old. Mario suffers from Leigh Syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that affects 1 in every 40,000 newborns. This condition is characterized by progressive loss of mental and movement abilities (psychomotor regression) which typically results in death within the first 10 years of life, usually by respiratory failure.
When Mario was born, he was misdiagnosed several times when he was a baby. IIeana Toranzo noticed that her son was developing slower in every aspect of a child’s growth, from walking to standing to speaking. Doctor’s knew early on that Mario had an extremely difficult road ahead and that his quality of life would be cut short. IIeana had now become a single mom with one income supporting a special needs child. “My goal was to provide a normal living environment for my son, “says IIeana. “My husband left and I was now faced with the toughest decision of my life – raising a child that will be leaving this earth before me. And doing so, with a smile on my face.”
By the age of 12, Mario had lived longer than expected but developed a severe limp when he walked which resulted in him leaning to one side for balance. Sadly, Mario became a prime target and victim of bullying. Mario continued to endure this abuse on a daily basis for months without sharing his pain with his mother. “My mom was working so hard and I didn’t want to make her sad or worried – so I just keep it all to myself, “says Mario. When school officials became involved, they suggested that Mario be put in a school that would benefit children with special needs. Shortly after, Mario was transferred to Atlantis Academy in Miami where he successfully completed high school and received his diploma at the age of 18.
Two years later Mario’s condition has worsened with doctors stating that “Now is when he is stable enough to travel. We cannot guarantee this will be the case for much longer". IIeana had no choice but to leave the workforce due to the mandatory around the clock care that her son needs. With medical bills piling up, a foreclosure looming and her son’s death slowly approaching she still manages to keep a smile on her face. “When I see him happy, that makes me smile. All Mario talks about is visiting New York City and what an amazing gift that would be, “says IIeana. “Instead of my son worrying about his last days – he’s rallying the troops to make sure that one or both of us gets to experience New York City and stay at hotel with a doorman. To me, that’s just remarkable.”