Anthony Rojas has lived a life of miracles, and now he and his mom are asking for one more.
Rojas spent the majority of his young life confined to St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Queens beginning in 2017 due to a rare genetic mutation, bronchiolitis obliterans, that causes abnormal cell growth scarring in his lungs, making it difficult for him to breathe. Suffering from chronic respiratory failure and in need of a lung transplant, the prognosis for the future appeared dire.
In order to inspire faith in what was then believed to be the final months of the young boy’s life, the NYPD took him under their wing as a member of their Hope program — an initiative that allows children living with severe and even terminal illnesses to spend their days as New York’s Finest—varnishing him with an honorary cop status and whisking him on exciting assignments.
So, when a miracle occurred and the dying child began to stabilize, legions of police officers applauded Rojas as he finally left St. Mary’s Hospital after a four year stay on Oct. 21. The day he went home was an emotional one for his family and members of the police department alike who had befriended him, but that picturesque Thursday was not the end of the story.
Having Rojas back at home, in Suffolk County, was a dream come true for his family. The seven-year-old was like a fish back in water. Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, interactions with his loved ones were severely limited but once he was out of the ward and in his living room, he and his brother were bonding just like old times.
“The first thing that he did was run to his brother,” his mother Lucy Ramirez told amNewYork Metro. “He was very excited. He wanted to play everything with him. He left so many friends behind at the hospital, but he has been welcomed to a new world.”
Despite the truly joyous and momentous feeling of having the miracle boy back in their loving embrace, the rest of the transition unfortunately hasn’t gone quite as smoothly. Due to Rojas’ unique ailment, he requires distinctive medical care and equipment. Tethered to an oxygen tank, Rojas is not only physically limited, but the expenses are also proving to be a hard financial limitation for the struggling family.
“He wants to do so much, but unfortunately he is dependent 24/7 on oxygen, so wherever he goes is very limited. We always have to carry an oxygen portable; we have to carry tanks. He needs a concentrator and basically economically right now it’s a huge financial burden,” Ramirez explained.
The mother reiterated that she adores having her child home, but she wishes things could be easier for him after he has already experienced so much during his young life.
The family has created a GoFundMe page in hopes of gaining financial support to pay for the medical supplies and has even started an Instagram account where followers can shadow the boy’s progress, of which he has made a substantial amount since first arriving at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children.
Ramirez credits his drive to the NYPD Hope program, which she believes helped him fight knowing he had so many supporters. Deputy Inspector Paul Valerga, an instrumental force behind the program, agrees but also says Rojas not only inspired members of the police force he also served as a role model for other children at the hospital.
“Listen, I had been involved in some crazy incidents in my 25-year career in the NYPD. And I’m telling you when Anthony fist bumped me, I was actually crying,” Inspector Valerga said, recalling the day Rojas left the hospital. “You know, no matter what, for a child his age to teach me how to be a better person is just, it’s just overwhelming.”
“It will be a reward for him. It’ll give him new opportunities for things,” she explained.
Rojas himself is happy to be home, to play video games and toys with his brother.
“It was a new day for me!” Rojas told amNewYork Metro, happily remembering coming home for the first time after nearly half a decade.