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news News Friday, February 28, 2020 Friday, February 28, 2020 10:46 AM - Friday, February 28, 2020 10:46 AM

How Angel found a forever home

How Angel found a forever home

If you happen to visit Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston, you may meet Angel, the outgoing and sweet 11-year-old boy whose infectious smile is sure to make your day. Angel has been a patient at the Boston Shriners Hospital since he was 3. Angel was severely burned in his home country, the Dominican Republic. He needed specialized care not available in his local hospital, so Foundacion Juan Luis Guerra helped facilitate a transfer to Boston.

Angel arrived in Boston all alone. During that time, Dyani and her daughter, Laura, were volunteering at the hospital. Eventually, the little boy and the dedicated volunteers developed a special bond that blossomed into a family unit.

Making a connection to the Boston Shriners Hospital

Dyani learned about the Boston Shriners Hospital through her church. One of its ministries connected children from the hospital with the church community, and she signed up for a hospital visit.

During that initial visit, Dyani learned that some of the young patients had no family in the area to spend time with them while they recovered from often painful and complex surgeries. Some could not speak English, deepening their isolation. Dyani began volunteering almost every day, visiting with the young patients and talking to them in Spanish. She began bringing her daughter, Laura (who also speaks Spanish), with her on these visits.

Many of the children treated at the Boston Shriners Hospital, particularly those with burn injuries, require extended care. Dyani, Laura and their family recognized a need that they could fill. They applied for and received approval to host children in their homes who did not have family nearby and could not go home due to the frequency of their appointments.

The first child welcomed into their home was a 6-year-old girl. Laura explained, “We instantly gravitated toward her.” They kept up with the young girl’s treatment until she was ready for home. That experience was the beginning of a journey for Dyani and her family.

“We are blessing them but they don’t know that they are blessing us,” said Dyani when describing how it feels to help the young patients.

Laura shared, “There’s a checklist we do for kids that is just so simple.” That checklist includes the beach, pizza parties and ice cream. “Saying goodbye to all those kiddos is really difficult for us, but they go home to their families,” said Laura.

Meeting Angel

When the family met Angel, he was not verbal and could not feed himself. He lost all his toes and had to relearn how to walk. Eventually, the family brought Angel home to live with them while he continued his treatment. In time, Angel went back to the Dominican Republic to live with his grandmother, who was his guardian.

Angel returned to Dyani’s family home while he prepared for a second round of surgery and follow-up care. It was around this time that Angel’s beloved grandmother passed away. When it became clear that his biological parents could not care for him, Dyani, Laura and their whole family began the process of adopting Angel. On adoption day, Laura said to Angel, “The judge is on her way up, are you ready?”

In a quiet but excited voice, Angel responded, “We’re going to be a family forever now.” That family just celebrated the third anniversary of his adoption, and Angel is now 11.

Angel is a delightful boy with a magnetic smile. He loves to dance and act, recently turning heads in his elementary school’s production of The Lion King. Angel is also a star on the soccer field. He went from not being able to walk because he lost his toes to being the top goal scorer on his team last season.

Angel has also become a big advocate for himself and the burn community. As Laura explains it, Angel thinks it is important to help people understand what he and others like him are going through. Angel is a member of Team Brave, the Boston Shriners Hospital community reintegration program sponsored by the Boston Firefighters Burn Foundation. In a recent note, Angel wrote: “Team Brave has changed me. I don’t have to be nervous anymore when I go out into the world because I’ve learned that everyone is different. I can be myself and lots of people will accept me the way that I am. I’ve learned that it’s about more than my skin, it’s what’s on the inside that matters.”

Angel playing soccerAngel with family membersAngel at birthday party with family