North Bergen, New Jersey locals Carlos Torres and Martha Gonzalez reported in a recent press release that they felt “extremely blessed” upon witnessing Pope Francis kiss their 9-year-old son, Daniel, during His Holiness’ New York City visit, believing that the Pope’s blessing may help Daniel fight pulmonary hypertension. Daniel was first diagnosed with this life-threatening, debilitating condition when he was born. During the Pope’s visit, he and his younger sister Mia attended the papal mass at the Philadelphia Cathedral, after which Mia handed the Pope a letter that included a long list of names of PH patients. “Take this list,” Mia told His Holiness. “Pray for all these people.”
Daniel’s strong faith inspired Martha Gonzalez to turn to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to seek help and guidance for his fight against the disease. Prior to the Pope’s visit, she had sent a letter of request to the Vatican, asking the Pope to take time to bless Daniel. True enough, a week after sending the letter, Daniel and his family received access to first row seats at the Papal mass.
“From that day I’ve learned to always try to get what you need. You never know. For us, Pope Francis’s blessing is a need not a want,” Martha said.
Daniel and his family have been avid supporters of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) since he received his diagnosis. Their support spans from local and international fundraisers to advocacy for legislation, specifically the Pulmonary Hypertension Research and Diagnosis Act, which urges the formation of an interagency coordinating committee, and improvement of patient access to care. Martha is particularly active in the Hispanic PH community, helping bridge communication gaps and foster involvement among the minority.
“My daughter Mia’s wish is a miracle for her brother so he can stop having the subcutaneous site on his arm,” Gonzalez said. “But Daniel loves his site because it gives him his medicine. Hearing him say that makes me realize that being sick is his ‘normal.’ This encourages me to continue pursuing a PH cure through awareness so my son, like many other patients, can enjoy life being healthy again.”
November is officially Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month, and the PHA is preparing to celebrate its 25th anniversary next year in 2016. To find out more about how you can get involved, visit www.phassociation.org/.