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Melissa Moro’s son, Luca, was barely two months old when she noticed something was abnormal about the infant’s head. Feeling it was larger in size, she visited her pediatrician and was told there was nothing to worry about.

However, her instincts proved to be correct and soon after a trip to Good Samaritan Hospital’s Emergency Department, little Luca was diagnosed with choroid plexus papilloma, a rare type of brain tumor.

Following five hours of surgery at a non-Catholic Health hospital, where he spent two months in the pediatric intensive care unit, Moro was told that her baby would struggle to meet important physical benchmarks such as raising his head, rolling over and sitting up.

“I was also told that he would not crawl or walk until he was age five,” the Bay Shore resident said.

Desperate to help her son, she turned to social media, establishing the “Luca’s Medical Journey” Facebook page. She founded the page to raise awareness and funds to cover her son’s medical costs.

Seeing the posts on social media, Catholic Health’s St. Charles Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation Occupational Therapist Jennifer Zeman messaged Moro offering her assistance.

“When I saw the post from Melissa, my heart broke but I had no doubt that we would be able to help Luca reach his key benchmarks,” Zeman said.

“When Jen reached out and we spoke, I felt like there was someone who could help Luca,” Moro said. “After that conversation, we were able to get a prescription from the surgeon sent over and Luca had an appointment the next day. It was really some fast action.”

Unsure about what to expect, she brought Luca for his first appointment to Catholic Health’s St. Catherine & St. Charles Center for Health & Wellness in Commack. Moro’s concerns were quickly put to rest.

“We were welcomed with open arms,” she said. “Luca was shy, but the staff created a safe zone for him and were very patient.”

Zeman said Luca was delayed on all his milestones. But the combination of occupational therapy and physical therapy would soon see the toddler improving.

“Our focus at the beginning was getting Luca to be able to do the age-appropriate things he should be doing,” she said. “Over the past few months, he has been able to meet many goals including opening and closing his hands to grasp toys, sit independently, hold his head up and maintain eye contact.”

Moro is thrilled with the progress her son has made since starting his occupational and physical therapy programs.

“He sits up, rolls over and is able to crawl,” she said. “To see what he’s able to do now is really amazing.”

While there is more therapy ahead for Luca, his mother is grateful to the team at Catholic Health’s St. Catherine & St. Charles Center for Health & Wellness.

“They have been a blessing to our lives,” she said. “I am so glad Jen reached out. If she didn’t I’m not sure how well Luca would be doing now.”

St. Charles Hospital’s Vice President of Rehabilitation Laura Beck said the outreach to Luca’s mother by Zeman is a perfect representation of Catholic Health’s core values, I-CARE (Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect and Excellence).

“Jen and her team have done some amazing work with Luca,” Beck said. “Their combination of compassion, patience and expertise has seen him make great strides and reach key benchmarks.” 

Call 855-247-4500 for more information on Catholic Health’s inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs.

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