Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Therapy of Love

Daniele and "his" children


By Giorgio Fornasier  (Italy)
                                                                                          
My son Daniele was born 32 years ago and we were lucky that the pediatrician who saw him first knew about PWS and made a clinical diagnosis when he was 8 months old.

After he finished his studies at a professional school, he worked successfully in a couple of factories for over 11 years and was happy to live a life that looked normal to him. Two years ago, all of a sudden something changed dramatically and we think someone at work offended him saying he was a disabled boy without a future. He probably opened his eyes on a different reality and realized he was nearly 30 years old, most of his schoolmates were driving a car, had their own apartment and were married with children… He had nothing instead and no hope or expectations to have it in the future!

He fell into a depression, left his job and kept crying. He tried to find a way out and thought life was easier in South America where we went together and where some “friends” told him he could get as many girls as he wanted and he could get an easy life. He started speaking Spanish and changed his name with a Spanish one and got angry with anybody calling him Daniele. He also phoned travel agencies trying to get an air ticket to go to Paraguay and drove us a bit crazy.

Facing this crisis, we felt lost and desperate and took him to a specialized Hospital in Milano. For the first time in his life he had to take psychotropic drugs to overcome his paranoiac obsession and after a few months he forgot about his Spanish identity and was Daniele again.  But he was no more the lovely, cheerful and caring boy we knew and we had to accept this change and a new reality.

To worsen the situation ten months ago his brother Redi, who is only one year older, became father of a beautiful boy whose name is Alessio. You can imagine how happy we were, but Daniele wasn’t and strongly refused to be called as a uncle and did not recognize him as his nephew. Psychologists at the Hospital said he was jealous, but this was not the case. Our children with PWS are not stupid, they have a simple but clear and precise logic that we “normal people” often do not realize. To recognize Alessio as his nephew was the same as admitting his defeat and to be different with no hope to be a father himself too.

I took Daniele with me to Brazil last February to offer my wife a period of relief, as I was leading a group of 40 tourists to visit  the South of this Country where a large population of Italian origin lives. At the end of our program we visited Bairro da Juventude, an Institute run by an Italian Priest, Father Vincenzo Lumetta, who takes care of over 1,500 children who live in the poor and degraded outskirts of a town in Santa Caterina State.
 
Children who have not enough to eat or have not enough clothes and often suffer any kind of violence. Children who can have a future only in this house where they can find love, food, clean clothes and especially a good professional education, so they can get a job when they finish the internal school. As I am personally involved in helping this mission to support these children with individual sponsoring of Italian families that we call “distance adoption”, I always take people I lead on tours there, as they usually adopt many children and provide the money they need to be properly followed and continue their studies.

I was too busy to follow my group of 40 persons and I did not realize that my son Daniele chose a boy and a girl, took a form and filled it completely with all data to become their “father”. While I was in the office together with Father Vincenzo and had just made my annual donation to the Institute, the door opened and a shiny Daniele came in holding a boy and a girl by hand. He was excited, but at the same time he was afraid of my reaction, as he did something important without my permission. He first looked at me and then said: “Father Vincenzo, I adopted these two children!”. Father Vincenzo who knew about Daniele’s crisis smiled and said: “They are yours! Your father just paid one year fee for both.”

I will never forget the gratitude and happiness in my son’s eyes. He gave me a long strong hug and then introduced me to my new grandchildren João Pedro and Ana Alice. Then Daniele asked me to give him my mobile phone. He phoned my wife first and said: “Mom, I made you Grandma twice!”, then he phoned his brother and proudly said: “Now you’re uncle too!” and then he said the key magic words that made me cry and understand the nightmare was over: “How is my nephew Alessio?”.

A few days later I brought a new Daniele back home, the happy smiling boy we knew, more mature and more careful now. He was no more a child, but the responsible father of João Pedro and Ana Alice. Since then our life has changed and our son Daniele is a wonderful uncle to Alessio and went back to work as a volunteer guard at the local Municipality. He always talks about his children and proudly shows their pictures to everybody he meets, as all “normal” parents do. He writes to them quite often and they answer to him and have exchange of drawings they make, hoping they will be connected soon by Skype, so they can talk directly and see each other on webcam.

Once again our son with PWS is surprising us. He found the way out alone and the perfect solution to his problems. He did not know the causes, but he realized he could not have biological children in his life, so he found the easiest way to get his own family anyway. His life has changed completely and everything is finalized to his international family, so he is taking care to save or earn the money he needs to pay the annual fees, he often writes emails or letters to them and get organized to send gifts or wishes for their birthdays or for Christmas.  We plan a trip to Brazil with Daniele every year to see how our grandchildren are doing and this is really the best therapy we can offer our child and ourselves too… a therapy of love.

If anyone wants more information on Father Vincenzo’s program, they can contact Giorgio at g.fornas@alice.it.   Giorgio is the past president of IPWSO, the international organization for PWS, and is currently the Director of Programs for IPWSO. 

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