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“If it weren’t for Charlie Gard, my son wouldn’t exist”

Il Timone (Reprodução) / Família Gard
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An Italian couple were moved by Charlie's death to be open to life.

Shortly before he would have turned one year old, British baby Charlie Gard left this world on July 28th, 2017, after an extraordinary fight for his life. He suffered from a rare mitochondrial disorder that made him grow weaker and weaker. He was at the center of a legal battle between his parents, Connie and Chris, who wanted to try an experimental treatment in the United States, and the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where a group of doctors requested that the British justice system allow them to stop providing life support to Charlie and let him die. Although the baby’s family obtained sufficient donations to be able to pay for the experimental treatment in America, British “justice” ordered in April 2017 that his life support be removed in the name of Charlie’s “best interests.”

The following year, a very similar legal battle was fought over another British baby, whose parents decided to fight for his life: Alfie Evans. Even the Vatican was prepared to offer free treatment to Alfie at the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital. Despite the immense worldwide mobilization in defense of Alfie’s right to life, he too was given a “death sentence,” thanks to the decision of the justice system, which defended itself by saying that unplugging the child’s life support was in his best interests.

Charlie, an inspiration for an Italian family

Giuseppe and Elena live in Rome, and are the parents of Chiara, Paolo, and Davide. In an interview with Raffaella Frullone, published on the Catholic website Il Timone, Giuseppe explains how the youngest child in the family was born, thanks to the way Charlie Gard inspired them.

Elena and Giuseppe watched together a video in which the British child’s parents denounced to the world the position taken by the doctors of the Great Ormond Street Hospital, which denied them permission to transfer their son to another hospital for experimental treatment abroad, because the doctors thought it better to let him die — or rather, to make him die, since they unplugged the equipment that was helping him to breathe.

These are the words of the Italian father, Giuseppe:

“When my wife showed me the video of Connie and Chris, it was a point of no return for us. We were going through a peculiar phase in our lives. The pregnancy of our second son had been difficult, and there had been a concrete possibility that he could have been born with some serious disability. Respecting his life was not up for debate: we would welcome him in any case, but when he was born healthy, it was a great relief, as if a great cross had been taken off our shoulders. The last thing we were thinking about at that time, therefore, was another pregnancy, with all of the risks it would involve. Besides that, we had our day-to-day problems: sleepless nights, my wife had just gone back to work, we had to pay off our debts, take care of the kids’ schooling, and we didn’t have any help. In short, all of that together made us say ‘no’ to being open to life, although that decision made us suffer.”

That was when Charlie inspired them to rethink their decision.

“Charlie was a moment of truth for us, as if we could see with our own eyes what could have happened with our son Paolo. Charlie made us understand in practical terms the greatness of the dignity of a sick child, the sacredness of life in this most fragile of forms, and the light that comes from complete abandonment [to God’s will].”

The Italian couple prayed a lot for Charlie’s life. The British boy’s death touched them deeply.

“One day, Elena told me that she felt different inside, that we had to do something, and that the only way to respond to the diabolic culture of death was to open ourselves to life. It was an emotional moment when I recognized that I felt the same thing. A short time later, we conceived Davide. If Charlie hadn’t existed, our baby boy probably would never have been born.”

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