Life has been a medical roller coaster ride for Marcelo Joseph Llufire since the day he was born more than two years ago.
His father, Franco Llufire, and mother, Kristen, welcomed him into the world on March 27, 2017. Everything seemed fine when they took Marcelo home from the hospital to begin his new life.
But baby Marcelo was having trouble keeping milk down and soon the Mays Landing couple was worried that something wasn’t quite right with their son.
“We first took him to our pediatrician and they said we were giving him too much food,” Franco Llufire recalled.
They took the doctor’s advice and started to cut down his feedings. However, baby Marcelo did not stop spitting up the food he was given. After going back to the pediatrician, they were told again that they were probably feeding him too much.
A few days before Easter, they planned to take Marcelo to get pictures with the Easter Bunny when Franco’s mother noticed that her grandson had not improved despite her son and daughter-in-law following the doctor’s orders. She suggested that they take him to the AtlantiCare emergency room in Pomona.
After many tests in the ER, the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him and initially thought that the parents had fed Marcelo something that caused his symptoms.
Then things took a turn for the worse.
“All of the sudden I was being pushed out of the emergency room and doctors rushed in all around Marcelo,” said Franco.
The doctors rushed in because Marcelo was unconscious for a few minutes and they had to revive him.
When he was stabilized, Marcelo was airlifted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The ride up to Philly was one of the longest trips for Franco, Kristen and their family.
At Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Marcelo was found to have total anomalous pulmonary venous return, known simply as TAPVR, a birth defect in which oxygen-rich blood is returned to the wrong side of the heart.
Marcelo underwent open-heart surgery on April 16, 2017. He was only a few weeks old. After a successful surgery and a long 11 days and 12 nights at CHOP, the doctors were pleased with Marcelo’s recovery and he was sent home.
Franco started a GoFundMe page during the time they were at CHOP and he was overcome with the amount of support South Jersey has shown his family. More than $15,000 was raised for Marcelo and his family during that rough time.
Today, Marcelo is a happy kid who loves playing with family and friends, going on the iPad and kissing his parents every day.
“I pray and thank God every day that Marcelo is here with us,” said Franco. “He introduced me to a whole new level of love and has brought us all together.”
Franco and his girlfriend, Vanessa, currently have another baby on the way. Lorenzo is due in September and Marcelo is super excited to meet his little brother.
“I tell him to go give your brother a hug and he goes over to her and hugs her stomach,” explained Franco.
Marcelo is now 2 years old and is a healthy and sprightly young boy. He is due to have another surgery later this year, which Franco is hoping will not be another open-heart procedure.
Despite all that has happened to young Marcelo, and the horrors he has gone through, you would never know it given his amazing and upbeat personality.