Matthew Monzano: The Heart Warrior
This April marks the 33rd anniversary of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. In honor of this month, we would like to share a story written by one of our former interns, Kyle Wirth, about a boy and his mother facing a rare medical condition. Through Children’s Bureau’s programs, they avoided a route of pain and isolation, and found a life full of joy and community. Child abuse prevention is not only about stopping physical abuse, but also about empowering all families with the tools to raise healthy kids in a supportive environment.
“I’m Captain America!”
This is how three-year-old Matthew Monzano would introduce himself while holding the star shield of his favorite superhero.
With his beaming smile and his willingness to be your friend at first hello, Matthew has the characteristics of a happy, bright young child who absolutely loves life. But behind the passion and joy, comes a medical condition that only 1 out of 10,000 babies have to endure.
When Andrea Monzano was 18 weeks pregnant with Matthew, doctors diagnosed him with Heterotaxy Syndrome, a condition where the internal organs appear on the opposite side of the body. Doctors said that Matthew only had a 10 percent chance of surviving. But when he survived his first surgery after birth, a second one at six months, and with a possible third one still in debate, Matthew is considered to be a “miracle child.”
When Matthew was three years old, he started taking classes through Children’s Bureau Family Enrichment Program. Andrea first heard about Children’s Bureau a couple months prior at a local park, where she saw a couple of moms and their children doing arts and crafts nearby. After learning that it was a parent group from the Family Enrichment Program organized by Children’s Bureau, Andrea wanted to join with Matthew.
“I was looking for something to do with my son,” Andrea had said, “Like a Mommy and Me group.”
From the very beginning of class, Matthew’s teacher, Lorena Cruz, said he had “demonstrated a very vibrant spirit.”
“He is very well spoken and gets along well with his peers.” Lorena continued to say, “He loves to participate in circle time, to speak his mind out and just to make others laugh.”
Due to his liveliness, no one in class knew about Matthew’s condition, and most were surprised when Andrea shared their story. The more Andrea told her story, the more she connected and inspired other parents in the class.
In the past year, Children’s Bureau’s Family Enrichment Program became a huge part of Matthew’s life. He developed a passion for music, as he loves to sing with the class and play the drums. He became an avid reader as well. Andrea said that Matthew always tried to take a book with him to read at home.
Matthew has also started to learn more about his condition and wondered how he received the surgery scars on his stomach. But now he shows them off and tells others how strong he is, and that he was once sick, but now he’s good. For overcoming the odds he had to face, his mom calls him the “heart warrior” for fighting through. He even received a red cape from the American Heart Association that encourages him to keep fighting.
With great support and strong courage, Matthew has defied odds and continues to grow. Matthew has a vibrant smile and a huge heart, despite it being on the opposite side of his body.
Matthew and Andrea are still involved in Children’s Bureau’s Family Enrichment Program. Matthew will continue taking preschool classes this school year.