You might even see these two on a day when they have matching casts on their legs—confirming that their bond goes deeper than most friendships. Born with arthrogryposis, a neuromusculoskeletal disorder that affects various joints in the body, both boys are in wheelchairs and are currently undergoing painful surgeries and castings to improve their condition.
Joseph was adopted from Ukraine and now lives in Jasper, Texas with his parents and four siblings. In October 2014, he underwent his first corrective surgery on each joint in both legs and has to have two castings a week on his legs until they are stable enough for further treatment. “We came to the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House in October when Joseph had his first surgery and really enjoyed our initial stay,” says Joseph’s mother, Amanda. “We never have to worry about transportation to Shriners Hospital for Children, food, or where we will sleep each night—the Ronald McDonald House takes care of everything for us.”
During their first ultrasound, Giovanni’s parents knew something wasn’t right with their unborn son. “Doctors told us that Giovanni had amyoplasia, the most common form of arthrogryposis,” says Giovanni’s father, Dean. As their son’s medical needs evolved over the years, the Cascios decided to pursue care with Dr. Van Bosse, an orthopedic surgeon at Shriners who has dedicated his career to helping children with this complex condition. In October, Giovanni and his mother, Michelle, traveled from their home in Idaho to Philadelphia to stay at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House.
Prior to coming to the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Joseph had never met another child with arthrogryposis. Giovanni had attended the Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita Support, Inc. Convention, where he met many other children just like him. Although both families are involved in support groups online which provide insight, tips, and encouragement, there is nothing like meeting another family in-person who is going through the exact same struggles. The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House is a place where families can come together, where sorrows and victories, big and small, can be shared openly and for Joseph and Giovanni’s families that is what makes the House so special. “The Ronald McDonald House lifts the dread of diagnosis and gives us hope,” says Dean. “These boys feel good seeing people just like them and for us parents, there’s nothing like witnessing that.”
Nowadays, the boys can’t wait for their visits to Philadelphia and the Patterson and Cascio families stay in touch to coordinate appointments so they can visit with each other. “The other day, the boys had a casting and they were texting each other throughout the entire appointment,” says Amanda. “It’s a very painful process, but they lift each other’s spirits.” The time spent outside of the hospital setting is time well-spent; the boys have enjoyed a Halloween at the House, evenings doing art and music activities, watching movies, visiting with Stella and Lil’ Abner—the beloved therapy dogs, and playing video games and with army figurines. When asked what each boy thinks of the other they cheerfully responded, “I think Giovanni is funny and so nice,” says Joseph. “I think Joseph is friendly and helpful,” says Giovanni.
There is no doubt that the power of friendship has the ability to see people through their toughest days, and the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House is privileged to provide a place of comfort and hope where friendships can grow. As Dean Cascio says, “people need to know that this House provides so much more than just a place to stay; it provides support in every sense of the word for families like ours, and for children like ours. We are grateful for the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House and its supporters who make this service possible. I think I can speak on behalf of all of the families here when I say, thank you for making our lives a little easier as we go through this medical journey.”