By Ken MacLeod

WATERTOWN (CBS) – A year ago, a Watertown father gave his young son a lifesaving gift: one of his kidneys.

Ever since he was born, his parents knew Rafa would need a transplant and when the day came, his father didn’t hesitate.

Twelve months later his little boy is doing better than ever. Rafa Melendez is a happy, two year old chatterbox.

Rafa Melendez (WBZ-TV)

“It’s so hard to keep your eyes focused on the light at the end of the tunnel, and we are living in that light now, and it’s a dream come true,” said Sarah Melendez, Rafa’s mother.

Indeed, with his kidneys failing almost from birth, Rafa’s first chapter was full of medicine, machines, and uncertainty. Until, no matching donors could be found and his dad donated Rafa one of his.

“It was meant to be,” said Javi Melendez, Rafa’s father. “He was meant to have my kidney from the get-go.”

Rafa and Javi Melendez (Family photo)

The sign on Rafa’s door marks the past, his transplant day a year ago this week, but the future is what’s missing in his bedroom: no dialysis machine.

Last October, father and son went into the hospital and the entire family came out with new life.

“It’s brought us together, it’s made us stronger,” Sarah said.

Rafa has passed his regular checkups with flying colors, ditched dialysis and his parents have given him a little sister to grow up with.

Rafa and Sarah Melendez (WBZ-TV)

“We just want to take a picture of him smiling and move forward,” Sarah said.

But they don’t want to forget all those who helped them through this ordeal — or the couples who now face something similar. Javi would love others to consider becoming a “living” donor.

“I don’t feel any different, I am not really restricted in anything that I do, I can just kind of live my life like normal,” Javi said.

And “normal” sounds pretty good to a family who never let adversity burst their bubble.

“It’s something that is going to define our family in the best way,” Sarah said.

Ken MacLeod


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