Anthony Rojas has lived much of his young life at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside, Queens after being admitted for chronic respiratory failure, bronchiolitis obliterans, in 2017 due to a rare genetic mutation that caused abnormal cell growth scarring his lungs and making it difficult for him to breath.
During his stay, the outcome often appeared rather bleak for Rojas, but there is one thing his mother said kept him strong — becoming an honorary NYPD officer.
On Oct. 21, the lad got his wish when the NYPD gave him honorary cop status. And like any cop recovering from injury in the line of duty, Rojas was discharged from St. Mary’s to the applause of a crowd of New York’s Finest — a heroic end to a grueling four-year journey.
In 2018, the then four-year-old Rojas joined the NYPD’s HOPE Program, an initiative that allows children living with severe and even terminal illnesses to spend their days as New York’s Finest. He got to inspecting iconic landmarks such as the Empire State Building, visit the Joint Operations Center, go on patrol with the K-9 unit or ride boats with the NYPD Harbor Unit.
As time wore on, the diagnosis seemed to indicate Rojas’ only path to recovery would require a double lung transplant. Incredibly, however, his condition stabilized following numerous infusion treatments and intensive therapies. His condition progressed to the point that he was finally able to go home Thursday after four years in the Bayside hospital.
As a symbolic member of the Police Department, who wore his uniform and clung to his badge while facing the worst of his illness, the NYPD gave Rojas a hero’s salute as he left the hospital on Thursday morning.
The legion of NYPD officers lined up outside Saint Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside just before noon, including members of the K-9 Unit, Bomb Squad, Community Affairs, and others. As Rojas emerged, he received thunderous applause from hundreds of uniformed officers and even a got to enjoy a flyover from an NYPD helicopter.
“I want to thank all the staff,” Rojas’ mother, Lucy Ramirez, said. “This is a new beginning. Thank you to all of St. Mary’s staff because of the wonderful job they’ve done with him. We leave here with a world of happy. Thank you.”
Hospital staff stated that Rojas has made such a remarkable recovery that once he has settled at home, he could even start school.
Yet before all that, the seven-year-old was showered with gifts from the Police Department. He got to pet department canines and horses, and even had the opportunity to control a bomb disposal robot before being whisked into a squad car and sped home via a police escort.
For Detective Anthony Passaro, it was an emotional day after years working with Rojas in the HOPE program.
“It’s the most incredible feeling in the whole entire world,” Passaro said thinking back to 2018.
Passaro, who shares a namesake with Rojas, described the journey as moving and life-altering.
“He’s had many ups and downs over the years as he was initially on the transplant list for two new lungs, but then became too sick for the transplant he so desperately needed,” Passaro said. “No one on his care team nor in his family ever thought a discharge like this would be possible. Anthony is heading home thanks to his hard work and the devotion of his family, team of nurses, therapists and medical team at St. Mary’s. Everyone is thrilled for him because he will benefit greatly from being in the community and attending a school like a regular kid.”