7-Year-Old Boy Neglected By Parents Loses Legs by Amputation — Only His Teacher Visits Him in the Hospital

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7-Year-Old Boy Neglected By Parents Loses Legs by Amputation — Only His Teacher Visits Him in the Hospital

Jenna, Tim, Nate, and Julien Riccio | Jenna and Nate Riccio | Source: facebook.com/LGSusanB | facebook.com/peoplemag

When a school teacher went to visit her unwell student in the hospital, she learned that he had been removed from his birth family’s home and would soon go into foster care. Something tugged at her heartstrings, and she felt a sudden calling to step up for the youngster.

Jenna Riccio was an elementary school teacher at the Walsh Elementary School in Waterbury, Connecticut. In December 2018, she met a new student, Nathaneal, also known as “Nate,” who had been transferred into her class. From the moment Jenna met Nate, she felt a strange and undeniable connection.

She recalled that he was sweet, shy, didn’t talk much, and kept to himself. Sometimes, she saw him sobbing uncontrollably and wanted nothing more than to reach out and make him feel better. Nate joined the Connecticut school mid-year and was the only student who used a wheelchair.

A Painful Discovery

Jenna said it took Nate a long while before he became comfortable with other students and warmed up to the school environment. But there was something else that the Walsh Elementary teacher didn’t know about her new pupil at the time.

Also present during the memorable occasion was his older biological brother, Giovhany Mondestin, 21, who was glad to see his younger brother happy and safe with his new family.

Nate had sickle cell anemia, and doctors had to amputate both his legs below the knee, part of his left arm, three fingers, and a part of his ear. Although Jenna had heard of HbSS before, she didn’t know what it was like to live with the condition until she saw Nate.

The Hospital Visit That Became So Much More

The young boy had been in and out of the hospital several times and endured insurmountable pain because of the disease. In 2019, he was hospitalized again, and when Jenna learned her beloved pupil wasn’t well, she left everything and went to visit him.

Because she took a keen interest in the young boy’s life, Jenna also discovered something heartbreaking—Nate had been removed from his birth family’s home and faced the likelihood of going into foster care. She felt sad for the boy who had no friend or family member around in his most crucial time.

At that moment, Jenna felt a strange calling and knew she had to do something for Nate, more than just being his teacher and checking on him in the hospital. Thereafter, she decided to be his foster mom, and in less than two weeks, she cleared all background checks and training courses to make it possible.

The Adorable Ring Bearer & Doting Big Brother

While Nate recovered, Jenna silently worked behind the scenes to bring him home, and on October 3, 2019, the two left together from the hospital. Meanwhile, things progressed for Jenna in her love life, and she became engaged to Tim Riccio, an art instructor at Walsh Elementary who had also taught Nate.

When the couple discussed their marriage plans, Jenna told Tim she wished to adopt Nate someday, and her excitement was ten-fold when he reciprocated her sentiments. On May 15, 2021, they tied the knot, surrounded by family and friends, and Nate served as their ring bearer.

Jackie Vidal, Nate’s case worker, said of the occasion, “The love in the room was amazing. People had to get in line to dance with Nate.” In February 2022, Nate became a doting older brother when Jenna and Tim welcomed a baby girl, Julien. Jenna described Nate and Julien’s bond in these words:

“She’s obsessed with him, and lights up when she hears his voice.”

Officially a Riccio

Although the Riccios had considered Nate an integral part of their family, it wasn’t until November 19, 2022, that he became Jenna and Tim’s son. On National Adoption Day, 10-year-old Nate finally had a surname, a new identity—he was a loving older son and a proud big brother.

Nate Innocent Riccio was all smiles as he hugged his parents and baby sister after the courtroom adoption hearing concluded. Also present during the memorable occasion was his older biological brother, Giovhany Mondestin, 21, who was glad to see his younger brother happy and safe with his new family.

He expressed how hard it was to see his brother leave and live with a different family. But seeing Jenna and Tim’s unwavering love and affection for Nate, even Giovhany was convinced that everything had turned out for the best.

Experiencing “Firsts” with His New Family

Nate’s journey had been anything but easy. When Jenna became his foster mother, he felt indescribable emotions and didn’t know how he would survive in a new setting. But when he received incessant love, care, and attention from the Riccios, he could tell it was where he belonged.

During his first year with Riccios, the youngster celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas for the first time and even embarked on his first swimming and beach trips. The Riccios hoped to make his first birthday with them special, but they were forced to change their plans due to COVID-19.

Nate even met his idol, actor Grant Gustin who plays the lead in the TV show, “The Flash,” through Make-A-Wish Foundation. Every day with the Riccios was filled with adventure, love, and joy, and he considered himself fortunate to be a part of their family.

A True Inspiration

But it was Jenna and Tim who thanked God every day for blessing them with Nate. While Tim, 38, considered his son a shining example of hope and perseverance, Jenna, 37, gushed about how he taught her to be a mother. She also mentioned:

“He’s gone through so much in his 10 years he’s been on earth and he wakes up every day with a smile on his face, ready to tackle the day. He is an inspiration … not just to me and Tim, but every single person in our family.”

The Riccios hope their beautiful story will help raise awareness for sickle cell anemia and encourage families to consider fostering and adopting. Please show some love to this lovely family in the comments section on Facebook.

Click here to read another story about an Indiana therapist who adopted a severely burnt boy who had no home to return to and spent 222 days in the hospital.

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Glynnis Campbell

Glynnis Campbell is the bestselling author of swashbuckling action-adventure romances on USA Today. She is the wife of a rock star and the mother of two young adults, but she has also been a dancer, typographer, film composer, pianist, vocalist in an all-girl rock band, and voice in violent video games that you won't allow your kids play. Her finest writing comes from cruise ships, Scottish castles, her husband's tour van, and her bright southern California garden. Glynnis enjoys playing medieval matchmaker, taking readers to a world where brave heroes have lovable weaknesses, ladies are stronger than they appear, the terrain is lush and untamed, and chivalry is alive and well!"
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