Children’s Miracle Network: Meet Leo

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – On the days leading up to our Children’s Miracle Network Telethon, we are introducing you to patients who have been treated at the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital in Greenville. It’s because of their thoughtful care and attention that these children are so successful.

Tonight, we’re meeting Leonardo Velasquez-Bartolon – or Leo – whose struggle with a rare kidney condition left his parents thinking he might not be able to walk.

“The word that would best describe him is brave,” said Leo’s mother Vilmy Velasquez-Bartolon.

To donate to the Children’s Miracle Network in Greenville — Click Here!

Though bravery isn’t something a child should have to show, 3-year-old Leonardo Velasquez-Bartolon has harnessed it to overcome unimaginable health challenges.

“He was born prematurely in Goldsboro,” Vilmy said. “But that same day he had to be transferred over to Greenville. He was in the NICU for 20 days,”

At that point, Vilmy says they were able to take Leo home. But two months later–“I noticed that he wasn’t like a normal kid,” Vilmy explained.

They took him to a pediatrician who told them to bring Leo to the emergency department at ECU Health. He was later transferred to James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital in Greenville.

Leo was diagnosed with congenital nephrotic syndrome, a rare condition that can lead to kidney failure.

Shortly after Leo turned one, he had a stroke on the right side of his brain that affected the left side of his body.

“He couldn’t move his leg, his arm, and we thought that that would be very complicated, maybe he wouldn’t be able to walk,” Vilmy said. “But Leonardo is his miracle because he’s walking and he’s receiving some therapy because he’s lifting his arm more.”

Through his health challenges, Vilmy says the hospital staff always made them feel welcome and cared for.

“Everything that Leonardo has needed, the nurses have always been very, very attentive and very caring,” Vilmy said. “Every time Leo wanted toys, they would take him some toys. When he wanted cards they would take him some cards.”

Though Vilmy and her husband Pablo Morales mainly speak Spanish, Vilmy says they always felt comfortable.

“To the interpreters at the hospital, because it’s been difficult for us at the hospital because we don’t speak English,” Vilmy said. “But we’ve always had their assistance, from the interpreters.”

Leo reached a major milestone last April, he received a kidney transplant.

“It’s gone very well,” Vilmy said. “He’s been responding very well.”

At a young age, he’s survived a lot, but thanks to the care he received at the Maynard Children’s Hospital – and his own strength – he made it through.

“Right now, more than anything, I just feel proud,” said Leo’s father Pablo Morales. “I see him running, we see him smiling and laughing.”

“We doubted that he’d be able to run and do the things that he’s doing now,” Vilmy said. “But miracles can happen, and we have him.”

Pablo, Leo’s father, says Leo is mainly working on mobility on his left foot and his left arm. He is going through physical therapy to help with that process.

You can help continue to make miracles like Leo’s possible when you watch and call in a pledge during the CMN telethon this weekend on WITN.